Clifford Bolden, 55, was sentenced to death in San Francisco Superior Court in 1991 for the 1986 murder and robbery of 46-year-old Michael Pedersen, whom Bolden had picked up in a Castro Street bar.
After the California Supreme Court upheld the death penalty in Bolden's initial appeal in 2002, Bolden filed a habeas corpus petition claiming that he was denied a fair trial because of an alleged secret agenda by one of the jurors.
Bolden alleged that juror Jose Sarria, a well-known drag queen and political activist, was acquainted with or at least knew of the victim.
Bolden also claimed Sarria was set on imposing a death penalty and refused to deliberate the issue with other jurors.
In today's ruling, the high court unanimously rejected those claims.
The panel upheld findings in which a specially appointed referee, Superior Court Judge Mary Morgan, concluded that Sarria had not known Pedersen before the murder and had not refused to deliberate.
Bolden can now continue appeals in the federal court system.
The only other San Franciscan sentenced to death since the 1970s, Robert Lee Massie, was executed in 2001 after he voluntarily dropped his appeals.