Supreme Court rejects habeas relief for death row prisoner on jury misconduct grounds
June 18, 2018
In In re Cowan, a habeas corpus proceeding, the Supreme Court today finds no reason to vacate a death sentence based on jury misconduct. After affirming the death penalty on direct automatic appeal, the court had issued an order to show cause, which is uncommon.
One member of the jury that convicted the condemned prisoner of a double murder and that recommended the death penalty had not disclosed a conviction of his own, for public fighting. The court’s unanimous opinion by Justice Goodwin Liu, however, gives “great weight” to a referee’s findings “that the juror ‘simply overlooked’” the conviction, that the omission was not indicative of bias, and that the juror was not actually biased. Based on those findings, the court concludes relief on jury misconduct grounds is not warranted even though the juror’s omission “had the effect of depriving [the prisoner] of his right to intelligently challenge the juror peremptorily or for cause.”
At the Lectern