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Uttecht v. Brown

551 U.S. 1, 127 S. Ct. 2218, 167 L. Ed. 2d 1014 (2007)

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Uttecht v. Brown

United States Supreme Court

551 U.S. 1, 127 S. Ct. 2218, 167 L. Ed. 2d 1014 (2007)

Facts

Cal Brown (defendant) committed a heinous murder in Washington State for which he was convicted and sentenced to death. During the voir dire (jury selection), the defense and the state (plaintiff) challenged a number of prospective jurors. The defense challenged 18 prospective jurors for cause, of which 11 were excused over the state’s objection. The state challenged 12 prospective jurors for cause, of which two were excused over the defense’s objection. Juror Z was one of the jurors that the state challenged for cause. The defense and the state both questioned Juror Z regarding his ability to impose the death penalty on a defendant. Juror Z appeared to have a weak grasp on the available penalties for which the defendant, if convicted, would be eligible. Juror Z gave confused responses to questions related to if and when he would impose the death penalty. His answers centered around the risk of release and recidivism despite the fact that the two options for sentences were life in prison without parole or the death penalty. The state challenged Juror Z for cause. The defense volunteered that it had no objection before the judge even asked for a response. The court excused Juror Z. After his conviction was affirmed by the Washington Supreme Court, Brown filed a habeas corpus petition in federal district court, for which relief was denied. The court of appeals reversed the district court, finding that the exclusion of Juror Z was unconstitutional. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kennedy, J.)

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