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Ken Starr is nixed for jury in capital murder case due to expressed views about witness testimony

Posted Mar 20, 2014 10:40 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A distinguished career in the law has allowed Ken Starr to serve as U.S. solicitor general, a special prosecutor, and a federal appeals court judge, among other roles.

But the former law school dean and current president of Baylor University has never served on a jury and would be eager to do so, under the right circumstances, he told lawyers and a judge during jury selection Wednesday for a capital murder case in Texas. The stars were not aligned for the 67-year-old to begin doing so yesterday, however; the government asked 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother to strike Starr after hearing his views on the reliability of inmate testimony and eyewitness identifications, reports the Waco Tribune.

Starr, who has been involved in several death-penalty appeals, said he is not necessarily opposed to the death penalty in every case but believes it should be rarely and carefully applied, with greater uniformity. Starr also pondered the issue while a law clerk for former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, who voted with the majority to reinstate capital punishment in Gregg vs. Georgia during Starr's two-year stint in that job.

He had a chance to discuss his views in detail during a 45-minute questioning session in court, since those involved in conducting the voir dire deemed it unnecessary to explain to Starr the mechanics of how a capital murder trial is conducted, the newspaper notes.

Starr told a reporter he had enjoyed the "magnificently done” session. “This is our system of law," he said, "and when you think about other countries, we should be counting our blessings every day as Americans for not only our freedoms, but for the rule of law that protects those freedoms.”

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