November 13, 2017

Supreme Court affirms death sentence following guilty pleas

The Supreme Court today affirms the death penalty in People v. Wall, a verdict the jury returned after the defendant had pleaded guilty to first degree murder and four special circumstances.  The court’s unanimous opinion by Justice Goodwin Liu does find the superior court violated defendant’s statutory — but not his constitutional — right to be present during portions of jury voir dire, but it concludes the violation was harmless.  It also remands the case for reconsideration of a restitution fine.

The only issue at oral argument was whether the superior court erred in dismissing for cause a prospective juror who, the Supreme Court said, “repeatedly expressed uncertainty not as to her own views on the death penalty or the appropriateness of the death penalty in any particular case, but as to her ability to impose a death sentence.”  The court holds there was no constitutional error.

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