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Potential jurors in police officer's slaying quizzed about death penalty thoughts

TAMPA — It's a question most potential jurors in Hillsborough county never have to answer:

Would you be able to vote on punishing someone with death?

On Wednesday, that question was posed to a pool of about 80 in the first-degree murder case against Humberto Delgado Jr., accused of killing Tampa Police Cpl. Michael Roberts in 2009.

"This discussion is not a hypothetical discussion," prosecutor Jay Pruner told them. "It doesn't get any more real than this."

They had their own questions for the prosecutor:

What is first-degree murder?

(They'll find out later.)

Why are you seeking the death penalty in this case?

(They'll find out during trial.)

Why is it that a vote of guilty, in the first phase of the trial, needs to be unanimous, but a vote for the death penalty needs only to be a majority?

(Because the Florida constitution says so.)

Many questioned said they believe in the penalty. Others voiced opposition. One potential juror said she thinks it is a waste of time and that resources that can be better spent.

Those who said they were already certain about what their vote would be, because of their feelings about the death penalty, were dismissed.

The pool is down to 65, with 50 others on reserve. Jury selection will continue Thursday.

Opening statements could be given as early as Friday.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 310-2081.

Potential jurors in police officer's slaying quizzed about death penalty thoughts 11/02/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 5:19pm]
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