Thursday, February 22, 2007

S.C. Supreme Court affirms trial judge's decision to excuse equivocal juror from death penalty case

In State v. Lindsey, Lindsey appealed his conviction and sentence of death on the ground that the trial judge erroneously excluded a juror because during voir dire the juror equivocated on whether he could impose the death penalty. The trial judge found that the juror's belief that life in prison was worse than death would substantially impair the juror's ability to follow the law as instructed. He further noted that when asked about giving the death penalty, the juror "took a very big deep [breath] and exhaled as if he were very uncertain as to whether or not he could do that." The judge concluded "from watching him" and considering his inconsistent responses, that the juror should be excused.

The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's handling of the matter. The juror's equivocal views regarding the death penalty, his responses favoring a life sentence despite the facts of the case, and his noted hesitation when asked if he could vote for death, are a reasonable basis for the trial judge’s conclusion that the juror's views would substantially impair his ability to act as an impartial juror.

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