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Supreme Courts Examines Recusals in Death-Penalty Trials

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments earlier this week on whether former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille violated constitutional law when he ruled on a death penalty case in which he had been involved as a prosecutor,'s Jeremy Roebuck and Jonathan Tamari reports.

Castille, when he was the Philadelphia district attorney, authorized prosecutors to seek the death penalty against Terrance Williams. Later, Castille, as a justice on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, participated in the ruling rejecting Williams' appeal.

During oral argument, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. worried that requiring recusal in such circumstances "could lead to unintended ramifications such as requiring all prosecutors-turned-judges to step aside from cases for any prior involvement, no matter how small," Roebuck and Tamari report.