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Turner v. Murray

    Brief Fact Summary. The trial judge refused to allow the black defendant to ask potential jurors questions about racism.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. “[A] capital defendant accused of an interracial crime is entitled to have prospective jurors informed of the race of the victim and questioned on the issue of racial bias.”

    Facts. Petitioner Turner, a black man, was indicted on murder charges for the shooting death of white store-owner. The trial judge refused petitioner’s request to question perspective jurors on racial prejudice. Petitioner was convicted and sentenced to death. That conviction was upheld by the Virginia Supreme Court. Petitioner then sought habeas corpus relief, which was refused by the District Court. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

    Issue. Whether “the trial judge violated the petitioner’s right to a fair trial by refusing to question the prospective jurors on racial prejudice.”

    Held. Yes. The Supreme Court of the United States first distinguished this case from the holding Ristaino on the grounds that this was a capital case. In such a proceeding, “the jury is called upon to make a.


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