Morgan v. Illinois, 504 U.S. 719, 11 (1992)

Page:   Index   Previous  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  Next

Cite as: 504 U. S. 719 (1992)

Opinion of the Court

failure to remove [the juror] for cause, the sentence would have to be overturned." 487 U. S., at 85 (citing Adams, supra).

We reiterate this view today. A juror who will automatically vote for the death penalty in every case will fail in good faith to consider the evidence of aggravating and mitigating circumstances as the instructions require him to do. Indeed, because such a juror has already formed an opinion on the merits, the presence or absence of either aggravating or mitigating circumstances is entirely irrelevant to such a juror. Therefore, based on the requirement of impartiality embodied in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, a capital defendant may challenge for cause any prospective juror who maintains such views. If even one such juror is empaneled and the death sentence is imposed, the State is disentitled to execute the sentence.


Illinois, in fact, raises no challenge to the foregoing precepts, but argues instead that the trial court, in its discretion, may refuse direct inquiry into this matter, so long as its other questioning purports to assure the defendant a fair and impartial jury able to follow the law. It is true that "[v]oir dire 'is conducted under the supervision of the court, and a great deal must, of necessity, be left to its sound discretion.' " Ristaino v. Ross, 424 U. S. 589, 594 (1976) (quoting Connors v. United States, 158 U. S. 408, 413 (1895)). The Constitution, after all, does not dictate a catechism for voir dire, but only that the defendant be afforded an impartial jury. Even so, part of the guarantee of a defendant's right to an impartial jury is an adequate voir dire to identify unqualified jurors. Dennis v. United States, 339 U. S. 162, 171-172 (1950); Morford v. United States, 339 U. S. 258, 259 (1950). "Voir dire plays a critical function in assuring the criminal defendant that his [constitutional] right to an impartial jury will be honored. Without an adequate voir dire the


Page:   Index   Previous  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007