Monserrate v. State, No. 368S53

Docket NºNo. 368S53
Citation271 N.E.2d 420, 256 Ind. 623
Case DateJuly 19, 1971
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

Page 420

271 N.E.2d 420
256 Ind. 623
Luciano MONSERRATE, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Indiana, Appellee.
No. 368S53.
Supreme Court of Indiana.
July 19, 1971.

[256 Ind. 624]

Page 421

B. K. Delph, Gary, for appellant.

Theodore L. Sendak, Atty. Gen., Robert F. Hassett, Deputy Atty. Gen., for appellee.

ARTERBURN, Chief Justice.

This is an appeal from the Lake Criminal Court wherein the appellant was tried by jury before Special Judge T. Cleve Stenhouse. The jury found that the appellant was guilty of first degree murder, that he was twenty-three (23) years of age, and that he should suffer death. He was sentenced accordingly.

The appellant was jointly indicted for first degree murder with Luis Antonio Montes and Geraldo Torres Resto for the shooting and killing of Sharon Diane Potts, age nineteen (19). Resto was granted a seprate trial and Montes, who was sixteen (16) years of age at the time of the trial, was tried jointly with the appellant. Codefendant Montes was found guilty of man-slaughter and was sentenced to the Indiana Reformatory for a period of not less than two (2) nor more than twenty-one (21) years.

[256 Ind. 625] The first issue to be considered by this Court is whether the trial court violated the principles for the selection of jurors set down in Witherspoon v. Illinois (1968), 391 U.S. 510, 88 S.Ct. 1770, 20 L.Ed.2d 776. In that opinion, the United States Supreme Court stated at 391 U.S. 521, 88 S.Ct. 1776:

'It is, of course, settled that a State may not entrust the determination of whether a man is inocent or guilty to a tribunal 'organized to convict.' Fay v. New York, 332 U.S. 261, 294, 67 S.Ct. 1613, 1630, 91 L.Ed. 2043. See Tumey v. State of Ohio, 273 U.S. 510, 47 S.Ct. 437, 71 L.Ed. 749. It requires but a short step from that principle to hold, as we do today, that a State may not entrust the determination of whether a man should live or die to a tribunal organized to return a verdict of death. Specifically, we hold that a sentence of death cannot be carried out if the jury that imposed or recommended it was chosen by excluding veniremen for cause simply because they voiced general objections to the death penalty or expressed conscientious or religious scruples against its infliction. No defendant can constitutionally be put to death at the hands of a tribunal so selected.

'Whatever else might be said of capital punishment, it is at least clear that

Page 422

its imposition by a hanging jury cannot be squared with the Constitution. The State of Illinois has stacked the deck against the petitioner. To execute this death sentence would deprive him of his life without due process of law.' (footnotes omitted)

We note first that in the case before us, many prospective jurors were dismissed for cause after answering in the affirmative a question propounded by the prosecutor asking whether the juror had any conscientious opinion that would preclude him from affixing a death penalty in a proper case of first degree murder. If the juror indicated that he did have such a conscientious opinion, no further probing was apparently deemed necessary. Several jurors merely indicated that they did not believe in capital punishment. As was recognized by the Supreme Court in Boulden v. Holman (1969), 394 U.S. 478, 89 S.Ct. 1138, 22 L.Ed.2d 433, and in Maxwell v. Bishop (1970), 398 U.S. 262, 90 S.Ct. 1578, 26 L.Ed.2d 221, a person who states that he does not believe in capital punishment[256 Ind. 626] might still be willing to follow the instructions of a trial judge and to consider the imposition of the death penalty in a particular case. At least two other jurors were dismissed for cause on even less tenuous grounds. For example, Ralph Dalton was dismissed for cause after the following voir dire:

'Q. State your name, please.

'A. Ralph Dalton.

'Q. Mr. Dalton you are the first one who has not heard before the previous question. You understand that the charge in this case is Murder in the First Degree and the possible punishment, upon finding of Guilty, could be death? Do you, sir, have any conscientious opinion that would preclude you from affixing a death penalty in a proper case?

'A. I am afraid it would.

'Q. Under any circumstances, you would not do it?

'A. Maybe in some circumstances, I may be different, but I'm very doubtful.

Q. You doubt that you could affix the death penalty?

'A. Well * * *

'Q. I may just explore that a little more. Would you say that it's the death penalty that you're opposed to? Is that your answer?

'A. Well, in such case, yes.

'Q. If the circumstances, as you sit there now, can you concede any circumstances under which you might be sitting as a juror, vote for and affix a death penalty?

'A. If I was absolutely certain of the evidence, or if I wasn't absolutely sure, I wouldn't want to say yes.

'Q. Let me put it to you this way, Mr. Dalton: there are some circumstances in which perhaps you could, in a proper case, if the evidence warranted so, are you saying now you could affix the death penalty? Is that so?

'A. That's hard to answer.

'Q. Mr. Dalton, we understand. Please believe me, I'm not trying to harass you in any way. I just want to know if your opinion about the death penalty is conscientious, a conscientious opinion; that is, do you oppose a death penalty under any circumstances, or is it just a question of, well, I've got to hear the case. I know all...

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22 practice notes
  • Burris v. State, No. 981
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • 29 Junio 1984
    ...its infliction. No defendant can constitutionally be put to death at the hands of a tribunal so selected." Monserrate v. State, (1971) 256 Ind. 623, 625, 271 N.E.2d 420, 421. Prospective veniremen may be excused for cause who state that they would not consider returning a verdict of death. ......
  • Smith v. State, No. 182S19
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • 24 Julio 1984
    ...would find it almost impossible to vote for death, were not sufficient reasons to exclude a juror for cause in Monserrate v. State, (1971) 256 Ind. 623, 271 N.E.2d 420, but we held the trial court may exclude a juror for cause whose true stand without equivocation and without self-contradic......
  • Averhart v. State, No. 1182S414
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • 29 Octubre 1984
    ...would not necessarily compel a vote against recommending it. These jurors were not excused for cause. Monserrate v. State, (1971) 256 Ind. 623, 271 N.E.2d 420; Lamar v. State, (1977) 266 Ind. 689, 366 N.E.2d 652, reh. denied. In Adams, supra, the United States Supreme Court found that Texas......
  • Jefferson v. State, No. 3-679A180
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 30 Enero 1980
    ...agreement with the rule of law announced in Bruton. Sims v. State (1977), 265 Ind. 647, 358 N.E.2d 746; Monserrate v. State (1971), 256 Ind. 623, 271 N.E.2d 420; Baniszewski v. State (1970), 256 Ind. 1, 261 N.E.2d 359. Page 820 However, it has also been held that the improper admission of a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
22 cases
  • Burris v. State, No. 981
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • 29 Junio 1984
    ...its infliction. No defendant can constitutionally be put to death at the hands of a tribunal so selected." Monserrate v. State, (1971) 256 Ind. 623, 625, 271 N.E.2d 420, 421. Prospective veniremen may be excused for cause who state that they would not consider returning a verdict of death. ......
  • Smith v. State, No. 182S19
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • 24 Julio 1984
    ...would find it almost impossible to vote for death, were not sufficient reasons to exclude a juror for cause in Monserrate v. State, (1971) 256 Ind. 623, 271 N.E.2d 420, but we held the trial court may exclude a juror for cause whose true stand without equivocation and without self-contradic......
  • Averhart v. State, No. 1182S414
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • 29 Octubre 1984
    ...would not necessarily compel a vote against recommending it. These jurors were not excused for cause. Monserrate v. State, (1971) 256 Ind. 623, 271 N.E.2d 420; Lamar v. State, (1977) 266 Ind. 689, 366 N.E.2d 652, reh. denied. In Adams, supra, the United States Supreme Court found that Texas......
  • Jefferson v. State, No. 3-679A180
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 30 Enero 1980
    ...agreement with the rule of law announced in Bruton. Sims v. State (1977), 265 Ind. 647, 358 N.E.2d 746; Monserrate v. State (1971), 256 Ind. 623, 271 N.E.2d 420; Baniszewski v. State (1970), 256 Ind. 1, 261 N.E.2d 359. Page 820 However, it has also been held that the improper admission of a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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