A Prosecutor’s Change of Heart in a Capital Case at the Supreme Court
What is surprising is how little attention the Supreme Court has paid to capital cases, which are often at the center of the Supreme Court’s attention. This was clearly the case with the death penalty case of Charles Allen Guitiere, Jr., also known as Carlos Guitiere, who was convicted of capital murder in 1992 after a trial that lasted more than two years and included seven weeks of jury deliberations. According to the trial record, during the jury deliberations, the jury became divided, with four of the twelve jurors finding the defendant guilty and four finding him not guilty, and the fourth juror was not present for the deliberation.
The reason for the jury being divided was discussed in a press briefing by the Supreme Court, which was not reported in the record of the proceedings. Since the jury was impaneled without the presence of the fifth juror and because the division was not reported, it is impossible to tell at this point whether this particular juror would have voted to convict the defendant. After deliberations, the jury was polled, and five of the jurors returned guilty verdicts. Based on those verdicts, a state court judge in Ohio sentenced Carlos Guitiere to death. There is no indication that the trial judge ever considered the possibility that the split vote might have been due to a juror’s honest, conscientious opinion that the defendant was guilty.
A year after he was executed, the Supreme Court overturned the conviction without addressing the split vote. It was the Supreme Court’s opinion in State v. Allen, 134 Ohio St.3d 1457, 2013-Ohio-5688, 980 N.E.2d 989 (Nov. 27, 2013), that prompted this brief summary.
On May 31, 2000, a jury convicted Carlos Guitiere of the death penalty, which he had requested at his arraignment. Six days later, the jury found that the murder was committed while Carlos Guitiere was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance. After considering the evidence and testimony adduced during the penalty phase, the jury found that Carlos Guitiere had committed murder under that condition and then recommended a sentence of death for that murder. Prior to the penalty phase, the Ohio Supreme Court remanded the case to the common pleas court, which subsequently conducted a new sentencing hearing.
The common pleas court heard testimony from several experts about Guitiere’