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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My Last Death Journal - Entry 2

July 17, 2007
We finally have a jury of 12 and 4 alternates. We began with 100 in the panel and ended with 3 left.

It was grueling, fatiguing and more frustrating than any I’ve done in the past. After reading the questionnaires, it was clear that 20% + were “PCC’s,” that is, people so averse to the death penalty that the judge was likely to grant a challenge for “cause” by the DA.

Efforts to “rehabilitate” these jurors by questioning them, educating them about what would be and would not be expected of them always has been a longshot.

But as we proceeded, the list of PCC’s increased because many who had stated on questionnaires that, though squeamish about the death penalty, they could be for it is some cases and therefore would pass the cause challenge, now sitting in the box took cues from others and escaped by claiming an epiphany — “hearing the other jurors, I realized that I could never vote for death.”

That became a mantra and they realized that if they stood this more solid ground, they would avoid service.

Then there was a guy who had sat on a death case in 1984, had voted death, and now said he did not wish to sit on another one because his verdict had haunted him all these years.

A later juror took the cue and said that he’d been thinking about what that man said and now he couldn’t do it either, even though his questionnaire indicated otherwise.

The judge had denied my motion for sequestered jury selection. Back in the day, the California Supreme Court had required it; but that was overturned later because it was too slow and helped the defense too much. So now every juror gets educated by others on what to say to stay on or get off.

In the end, the judge excused more than 30 “anti-death” jurors, about a third of the total.

My anger (barely suppressed, I admit) was directed toward those decent liberal Westsiders and African American men and women who got themselves booted this way.

The next time you hear liberals and Blacks moaning about prejudice, intolerance, the “system,” remember all these decent people eager to give their places to people willing to lie to themselves and to the court in order to vent their rage.

On the other side, about 5 of my challenges for cause were granted. Those who were clearly biased in favor of death but answered they were willing to consider voting for lwopp if convinced there was enough mitigating evidence passed cause and I was forced to exercise a peremptory challenge.

Each side gets 20 challenges (down from the old law which gave 26).

I used up 17 and the DA 14, when we each accepted the jury. I couldn’t use all my 20 because I knew which jurors were coming next and the DA would have been able to kick off any of the equivocal jurors in favor of worse ones coming.

The order of jurors was “randomized” by the computer and the order is just a matter of luck. Given the need for the defense always to “kick” more people than the DA, the luck or bad luck of the draw plays a part.

As it is, we wound up with a jury of mostly “3's” with a couple of “2+’s” and one “4," at least by my rating. There are 4 African Americans - 2 men, 2 women.

It’s the best I could do, considering.

Now comes the hard part — the evidence.

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