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Yolo Judge Dismisses Death Penalty Juror

Publication Date: 
November 15, 2011
Sacramento Bee
Hudson Sangree

Professor Robert Weisberg spoke with Hudson Sangree of the Sacramento Bee on how a judges decision to excuse a juror from death penalty deliberations may make the appeals process much more likely.

In a moment of high legal drama, Yolo Superior Court Judge Paul K. Richardson agreed Monday with a juror's request to remove her from death penalty deliberations in the Marco Antonio Topete cop-killing trial and replace her with an alternate.

"I am going to excuse you," the judge told the middle-aged woman, identified only as juror number 11.


However, one expert said the judge may have a picked a smart way to negotiate the legal thicket. Robert Weisberg, who teaches criminal justice at Stanford Law School, said if he were Topete's lawyer, he would appeal the judge's ruling "in a second."

Still, Weisberg said the judge was probably smart to make his decision on the basis of language instead of dealing with the more difficult issue, expressed in the woman's note, of cultural differences.

"An appellate court would be less likely to reverse if a judge has a reasonable sounding reason, even if it is a bit of a pretext," Weisberg said. "The judge will probably be OK."