Buchanan v. Kentucky, 483 U.S. 402 (1987)

2012-01-11 10:56:09

David Buchanan was indicted on capital murder charges for the rape and murder of Barbel Poore. Buchanan requested that the capital portion of his charges be dropped, arguing Enmund v. Florida (1982) made him ineligible for the death penalty because he had neither intended to kill Poore nor had he been the gunman. This was granted. He and fellow participant Stanford were tried jointly by the state. Buchanan was found guilty and sentenced to a life sentence on the murder charge.

Following his conviction and sentence being upheld by the Kentucky Supreme Court, Buchanan appealed to theU.S. SupremeCourt. Buchanan claimed that because his jury at trial had been ‘‘death qualified,’’ he had been deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury of a fair cross-section of the community.

The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, and affirmed the lower court. Death qualification of the jury was previously permitted in Lockhart v. McCree (1986), where the death penalty was sought for one of the defendants being tried. And in Wainwright v. Witt (1985), the Court ruled that ‘‘Witherspoon-excludables’’ did not constitute a distinctive group in regards to fair cross-section purposes. Moreover, death qualifying a jury did not make them automatically excludable for cause because the court assumes that jurors will set aside personal beliefs and make decisions based solely on case facts and the letter of the law.


Cases and Statutes Cited

  • Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782 (1982) 
  • Lockhart v. McCree, 476 U.S. 162 (1986) 
  • Wainwright v. Witt, 469 U.S. 412, 423 (1985)