Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Cuadra Omnibus Pre-Trial Motion: Challenge to Pennsylvania Jury Instructions


89. Cuadra incorporates herein by reference and makes a part hereof Paragraphs one (1) through eighty eight (88), above, inclusive, as if the same were fully set for that length herein.

90. Cuadra believes, and therefore avers, that the Court will instruct the jury regarding the death penalty in reliance upon the Pennsylvania Standard Jury Instructions.

91. There exists substantial social science data that juries are unable to properly understand and apply instructions of the Court similar to Pennsylvania Standard Jury Instructions. As a result, these juries misapply the law in considering the complicated aggravating and mitigating circumstances process. For example, there exists substantial social science data that death qualified juries equate the elements of First Degree Murder with aggravating factors for the purpose of the death penalty.

92. There exists substantial social science data to the effect that juries who must choose between life imprisonment or a death sentence are unable to follow jury instructions. Such jurors improperly determine whether to impose the death penalty or not at the same time they determine the innocence or guilt of the Defendant. This premature decision making, compounded by the absence of effective instructions as to how to apply the aggravating and mitigating factors in reaching a decision regarding sentencing, deprives a Defendant of due process and a fair trial.

93. There exists substantial social science data to the effect that, while the comprehension rate of jurors can be increased somewhat by the rewording of the jury instructions, they cannot be structured to the point where they can be relied upon to assure that the jury will properly fulfill its role.

94. Cuadra believes, and therefore avers, that a “death qualified jury”, and the process by which said jury is instructed, violates his right to a fair and impartial trial by jury as guaranteed by Article I, Sections 6, 9 and 13 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

WHEREFORE, the Defendant, Harlow Cuadra, moves this Honorable Court to preclude the Commonwealth from pursuing the death penalty as violative of his due process rights and right to a fair trial.