The Supreme Court yesterday affirmed the death sentence in People v. Suarez for the 1998 murders of two adults and two young children.

The court’s unanimous opinion by Justice Goodwin Liu rejects many arguments, including the defendant’s plea to overturn long-standing precedent allowing for death-qualified juries in capital cases — i.e., excusing for cause prospective jurors who are opposed to the death penalty.  The opinion also upholds the superior court’s dismissal for cause of one prospective juror who indicated she wouldn’t vote for the death penalty.

Nonetheless, besides authoring the court’s opinion, Justice Liu wrote a concurrence recommending the Legislature and a Judicial Council work group that is addressing discriminatory jury selection (see here and here) should consider “whether current standards and processes for excusal of prospective jurors for cause contribute to racial disparities in jury selection and to implicit biases in the resulting petit juries.”  The concurring opinion references various studies and articles, including one where “researchers found that ‘the process of death qualification results in capital jurors with significantly stronger implicit racial biases . . . and explicit racial biases than jury-eligible citizens generally.’ ”

The court also yet again held a Vienna Convention violation to be harmless.  (See here and here.)

As it has before (including in three other cases this week (here, here, and here)), the court summarily dismisses an argument that juries should be required to make unanimous findings on aggravating factors, an issue the court has indicated it might revisit because it has asked for supplemental briefing on the issue in another capital appeal.  (See here and here.)