Last week, the California Supreme Court threw out the death sentence of a convicted killer, John Riccardi. The reversal was the result of the trial judge’s dismissal of a potential juror, on the basis of her written responses regarding the death penalty, reports the Associated Press.
Riccardi was convicted in the 1983 murder of musician Dave Navarro’s mother and friend. The victim, Connie Navarro, was Riccardi’s girlfriend, reports the LAist.
This recent ruling could have far reaching implications on several capital cases in California, including the Scott Peterson case.
The dismissal of a prospective juror based on their viewpoint on capital punishment is cause for automatic reversal of a death penalty verdict, according to a 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. But automatic reversal doesn’t mean that Riccardi is off the hook just yet. The ball is in the Attorney General’s court to determine whether or not Riccardi will face another sentencing hearing.
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote that the potential juror’s conflicting answers on the death penalty merited further questioning from the trial judge, instead of automatic dismissal.
In one questionnaire, the juror responded that she supported the death penalty and in a subsequent response, she claimed that she was hesitant about imposing the death penalty on anyone.
Interestingly, the juror argument is being raised in Scott Peterson’s appeal. In his appeal Peterson raised the issue that thirteen prospective jurors were dismissed due to their stance on death penalty.
The fate of Riccardi could be very closely tied with Scott Peterson’s fate. If the Attorney General calls for another sentencing phase, then could we assume that Peterson, too, could face similar challenges going forward?
- The People v. Riccardi (California Supreme Court)
- Search California Cases (FindLaw CaseLaw)
- Reversible Errors? Scott Peterson Files Death Penalty Appeal (California Case Law Blog)