Luzerne County Will Seek Death Penalty Against Harlow Cuadra

September 30, 2007 in Freak Show Trial by Freak-Show-Trial

Only five convicted murderers in Luzerne County were sentenced to death since 1975. Two of the five sentences were reversed. The most recent death sentence was issued to Michael Bardo in 1994. He is still on death row for the 1992 murder and sexual assault of his 3-year-old niece. CitizensVoice

Luzerne County’s Citizens Voice has an article which attempts to claim that the death penalty is rare from juries in Luzerne County. This article is very misleading in our view. The Citizens Voice article is misleading because it fails to reference the fact that “death qualified juries” are more likely to vote for convictions in the first place. Luzerne County Prosecutors are likely to announce that they will seek the death penalty against Harlow Cuadra and Joseph Kerekes because doing so will allow Prosecutors to exclude jurors who oppose the Death Penalty. There is persuasive evidence that Death Qualified Juries are More Likely to Convict,i.e., jurors who indicate that they are not opposed to voting for the death penalty are more likely to deliberate for shorter periods, they are more likely to be uniform in their thinking and, they are more likely to vote for convictions.

So, whether or not Prosecutors ultimately obtain a Death Sentence against Harlow Cuadra and Joseph Kerekes is really not the point. The Prosecutors main Objective is to win convictions and convictions againt Cuadra and Kerekes are more likely from a Death Qualified Jury.

My recollection is that the US Supreme Court just recently re-affirmed its previous decision that prosecutors can select for Death Qualified Juries UTTECHT v. BROWN (No. 06-413) 451 F. 3d 946

Lockhart v. McCree, 476 U.S. 651
Brief Filed: 12/85
Court: Supreme Court of the United States
Year of Decision: 1986

APA submitted an amicus brief arguing that: (1) the social science data tendered by respondent demonstrates that death-qualified juries are more pro-prosecution and unrepresentative than typical criminal juries and that death qualification impairs jury functioning; (2) the social science research has focused on the relevant categories of prospective jurors, including that subset of jurors excludable under Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510 (1968); (3) social science research conducted over the course of three decades directly addresses the constitutional issues at stake and the data show that (a) death qualified juries are conviction prone, (cool.gif the barring of Witherspoon excludable jury members creates unrepresentative juries, thereby implicating defendant’s right to a jury composed from a fair cross-section of the community, © death qualification excludes a significantly large subset of the population, (d) those excluded through death qualification share common attitudes on issues related to criminal justice, (e) death qualification results in under representation on juries of blacks and women, and (f) the data suggests that death qualification interferes with the proper functioning of the jury; and (4) contrary to the States’ criticisms, the social science data tendered by respondent satisfied applicable criteria for evaluating the soundness of scientific research.

The US Supreme Court reversed on both grounds – - the claim regarding the Sixth Amendment’s right to a jury selected from a fair cross-section of the community and the impartiality claim under the Fourteenth Amendment. Regarding social science evidence, the Court did not condemn social science evidence in judicial decisionmaking as was urged by the States as amici. The majority found, however, several serious flaws in the social science evidence introduced by the defendant and relied upon by the courts below. The Court stated that even if the social science evidence was methodologically valid and adequate to establish that death qualification produces more conviction prone juries, nonetheless, the Constitution does not prohibit the States from using death qualified juries.