Questionnaire quizzes potential Kirkland jurors on death penalty, race

CINCINNATI - Potential jurors in the Anthony Kirkland resentencing are being asked very specific questions about their views on the death penalty.

Ninety-two filled out the 15-page questionnaires Thursday — and not without some controversy.

Attorneys disagreed on language of the cover page, which revealed that the forms could be released through public records requests.

Judge Patrick Dinkelacker overruled defense attorney objections to letting jurors know redacted forms could be made public.

"We respectfully believe that this cover sheet would inappropriately inhibit jurors from a full, fair and free disclosure of information — information that is critical in a capital murder matter for Mr. Kirkland’s right to a fair trial," said Kirkland's attorney, Richard Wendel.

Mark Piepmeier,  Hamilton County assistant prosecutor, disagreed.

"I think everything on that form is a true statement," Piepmeier said. "I think it’s kind of unfair to the jury to think that what they’re telling us is going to be kept secret and to find out later it was released." 

Kirkland is on Ohio’s death row for his conviction of murdering and burning 14-year-old Casonya Crawford and 13-year-old Esme Kenney. But the Ohio Supreme Court ordered a new sentencing hearing due to comments prosecutor Joe Deters made at Kirkland's trial in 2010.

During closing arguments, Deters said Kenney and Crawford would be “just freebies” for Kirkland unless he got the death penalty, since Kirkland was already serving life without parole for his previous two killings.

The questionnaire will help attorneys pick the 12 jurors and four alternates who will decide Kirkland’s punishment.

Besides questions about the death penalty,  others ask potential jurors about the racial makeup of where they grew up and opinions on mental health.

Attorneys will study the questionnaires Friday and begin picking the jury on Monday. The hearing could take two weeks.

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