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Friday, January 7, 2011

"Death Qualified" Juries

It's interesting to read criminal defense lawyer blogs. They are State-licensed lawyers and took an oath to defend the State. They have some anti-State tendencies, because they're trying protect people from State aggression.

A criminal defense lawyer helps provide an illusion of legitimacy to the State. If you're accused of "possession of marijuana", a lawyer would argue about evidence, rather than arguing the legitimacy of the law criminalizing marijuana.

Defense lawyers are particularly interested in "death penalty" cases. A capital murder trial is a huge advertisement for the State. There was a murder. The State prosecutor is holding the criminal accountable. The State violence and justice monopoly are on display. The State is needed to protect people from murderers.

One bizarre practice is "death qualifying" a jury. During jury selection, the judge asks "Are you opposed to the death penalty?" If the juror answers "yes", then the juror is removed.

This denies the defendant his right to a jury trial. "Death qualifying" a jury introduces a pro-State bias in the jury pool.

Politicians love the death penalty. They want to be "tough on crime". They like the spectacle of a capital murder trial. It is possible that a majority would not vote for the death penalty.

Suppose that 51% of the population are opposed to the death penalty. That isn't enough to repeal the law, because politicians pursue their own agenda and not what voters want. However, a jury chosen at random would have 6/12 people opposed to the death penalty.

Jury selection eliminates that potential embarrassment. "Voir dire" is French for "jury tampering". Even if 25% of the population were opposed to the death penalty, that would be 3/12 of the jury. Via jury selection/tampering, prosecutors can enforce unpopular laws.

There's another problem. Someone who believes "The death penalty is wrong!" is also more likely to believe "The police got the wrong guy!" By excluding people with certain beliefs, that creates a pro-State bias in the jury.

Jury selection is really jury tampering. The rules favor the prosecutor/State. This is one of many unfair State "justice" practices. "Jury nullification" is nice, but you'd have to lie to get on the jury.


Scott said...

To "do you support to the death penalty" I would answer "yes". The full and complete answer, which they didn't ask for is, "The criminal justice system is so unreliable that it would be unethical to convict anyone on a capital murder case with anything less than videotaped evidence of the murder and a signed confession, however I do support the death penalty for tyrants and other officials who have openly abused their authority."

Anonymous said...

What is the french reference for voir dire? I don't see this mentioned as meaning tampering.
I completely agree with your post. I have been in jury waiting rooms with 'death qualified' potential jurors. It's very chilling. No way is this a random sample of the population. Wouldn't you say there has to be some screening for IQ and understanding of the english language? I don't think I'd ever get on a jury unless I kept my mouth shut or lied.

FSK said...

"Voir dire means jury tampering" is a joke.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you know many criminal defense lawyers. At least, not many good ones.

I have practiced criminal defense law for nearly 15 years, and serve as a Director of the Criminal Defense Lawyer's Association for the most active death penalty state, Texas. Your characterization of the criminal defense bar is groundless.

Clay S. Conrad
Author, Jury Nullification: The Evolution of a Doctrine
Houston, Texas

nick said...

Jury stuffing starts at the very beginning. My 'peers' are not registered voters they are sovereign individuals. The deck is stacked for the state by the state. The fact that one party of a dispute gets to select and enforce the rules of adjudication is absurd. Even the agents of the state know that this is absurd, they would never let me select the rules and the enforcement of them for a trial in which I was a party.

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