CINCINNATI — The claims of juror bias by an Ohio death row inmate who killed two girls in a robbery including a 3-year-old can be further explored, a divided federal appeals court ruled.
At issue before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was an appeal by Jeronique Cunningham, sentenced to die for the killing of two girls, ages 3 and 17, during a 2002 drug-related robbery in Lima. His half-brother, Cleveland Jackson Jr., also was convicted and sentenced to death.
Attorneys for the 49-year-old Cunningham have long argued that a juror reportedly felt pressured to convict him because the jury forewoman said she knew the victims’ families.
By a 2-1 vote, an appeals court panel said this week that a lower court judge can conduct a hearing to weigh two juror bias claims. The first is that the jury foreperson’s colleagues at the county’s children-services agency improperly relayed external information about Cunningham to her, and the second is that this juror’s relationship with the victims’ families affected the jury’s impartiality.
Judge Raymond Kethledge dissented, saying previous court rulings and legal precedent prohibited a review of those claims.