Morgan v. Illinois, 504 U.S. 719, 10 (1992)

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Opinion of the Court

Thus it is that our decisions dealing with capital sentencing juries and presenting issues most analogous to that which we decide here today, e. g., Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U. S., at 518; Adams v. Texas, 448 U. S. 38, 40 (1980); Wainwright v. Witt, 469 U. S. 412, 423 (1985); Ross v. Oklahoma, 487 U. S., at 85, have relied on the strictures dictated by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to ensure the impartiality of any jury that will undertake capital sentencing. See also Turner v. Murray, 476 U. S. 28, 36, and n. 9 (1986) (plurality opinion).


Witt held that "the proper standard for determining when a prospective juror may be excluded for cause because of his or her views on capital punishment . . . is whether the juror's views would 'prevent or substantially impair the performance of his duties as a juror in accordance with his instructions and his oath.' " 469 U. S., at 424 (quoting Adams v. Texas, supra, at 45). Under this standard, it is clear from Witt and Adams, the progeny of Witherspoon, that a juror who in no case would vote for capital punishment, regardless of his or her instructions, is not an impartial juror and must be removed for cause.

Thereafter, in Ross v. Oklahoma, supra, a state trial court refused to remove for cause a juror who declared he would vote to impose death automatically if the jury found the defendant guilty. That juror, however, was removed by the defendant's use of a peremptory challenge, and for that reason the death sentence could be affirmed. But in the course of reaching this result, we announced our considered view that because the Constitution guarantees a defendant on trial for his life the right to an impartial jury, 487 U. S., at 85, the trial court's failure to remove the juror for cause was constitutional error under the standard enunciated in Witt. We emphasized that "[h]ad [this juror] sat on the jury that ultimately sentenced petitioner to death, and had petitioner properly preserved his right to challenge the trial court's

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