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U.S. Supreme Court To Decide San Diego Man’s Death Sentence

The U.S. Supreme Court said this week it will consider reinstating the death sentence of a San Diego man who was found guilty of killing three people in a drug robbery in San Diego.

Hector Ayala was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1985 triple murder, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said in 2012 that Ayala was denied a fair trial because prosecutors excused all seven black and Hispanic jurors who might have served.

California appealed the 9th circuit's decision and asked that Ayala's death penalty sentence be reinstated.

Steve Semeraro, a professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, said it's been common in recent years for the Supreme Court to consider cases where the 9th Circuit has overturned a sentence.

In Ayala's case, Semeraro said, "The defense attorney objected because the prosecutor was striking all of the black and Hispanic jurors from the jury pool. The judge said, 'OK I'll hear that objection, but I'm going to exclude the defense attorney from the argument.' Pretty much everyone agrees you can't do that."

Related: California Death Penalty Ruled Unconstitutional

The Supreme Court, without commenting on the case, agreed on Monday to consider the appeal, which will determine the constitutionality of dismissing minority jurors.

The case will be argued this winter.

"There's a chance that the Supreme Court might affirm. And when you have a situation like this case, where every single juror of color was removed from the jury, that raises a lot of red flags," Semeraro said.

Staffer Nathan John contributed to this report.


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