Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lucas: Reservations about Death Penalty remains grounds for peremptory challenges

In Lucas v. Sec. Dep’t of Corrections, No. 08-15761 (June 8, 2012), the Court affirmed the denial of habeas relief to a Florida inmate sentenced to death for a 1976 murder.
The Court found that Lucas had failed to raise in state court proceedings his claim that the prosecution’s failure to disclose a rebuttal witness violated his confrontation clause rights. This claim was therefore procedurally barred. Even on the merits, the claim would have failed, as rebuttal witnesses are not subject to the pretrial disclosure requirement.
The Court also rejected the claim that counsel was ineffective for failing at the sentencing phase to negate the application of the heinous, atrocious and cruel aggravator. The Court noted that the evidence of the "beating" of the victim made it unlikely that additional evidence would have changed the outcome.
The Court rejected the challenge to the prosecution’s use of peremptory challenges to remove jurors who expressed reservations about the death penalty. The Court noted the absence of "clearly established" Supreme Court caselaw barring the use of peremptory challenges based on opinions regarding the death penalty.