Is a jury member entitled to hear a statement from the trial court stating that a jury would consider imposition of the death penalty?

California, United States of America

The following excerpt is from People v. Ruano, B279177 (Cal. App. 2017):

We are not persuaded. The trial court's statement did not prejudice Ruano and may have served a valuable function with respect to jury selection. As the court explained in response to a similar challenge in People v. Hyde (1985) 166 Cal.App.3d 463, 479, "The public commonly understands that in contrast to other criminal cases, the jury in a death penalty murder case must determine penalty as well as guilt. The moral and ethical questions surrounding the use of the death penalty have generated considerable social debate. It is reasonable to anticipate that a significant number of prospective jurors might question their ability to sit on a jury which potentially would have to consider imposition of a sentence of death. Not only did the trial judge's decision to raise and dispose of the issue at the outset save time and unnecessary strain on potential jurors' psyches, but it also avoided any possibility that a prospective juror's concern about serving on a death penalty case might skew his answers to voir dire questioning."

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