Before I get into any more of the recent death penalty cases, let me clear up the Penry decision that seems to be central in all three of these cases. The state of Texas had created a system of questions or “special issues” (the court uses the latter term) for juries to answer that were designed to assist them in determining whether the death penalty should be issued to people convicted of crimes. There were usually two or three questions which ranged from “Would the convicted individual be harmful to society if released?” to “Was this person fully aware of the repercussions of their actions?” The Court upheld this process facially in Penry but stipulated on due process grounds that this process must have an option for juries to take mitigating circumstances into account and “express their reasoned moral response.”

The Court held this week in Abdul-Kabir v. Quarterman and Brewer v. Quarterman that the instructions given to the jury in Abdul-Kabir’s trial “prevented jurors from giving meaningful consideration to constitutionally relevant mitigating evidence.” Interestingly, the Court held that if evidence could “diminish his blameworthiness … even as it indicated a probability that he would be dangerous” the evidence is not required to be considered by a jury. The Court ruled that the Fifth Circuit misinterpreted the Supreme Court’s ruling on these issues.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Categories

Random Posts

  • Westlaw Flag Colors for OT10 Cases: I've always thought it was funny that WestLaw handed out yellow flags like they were candy. I'm referring, of course, to "KeyCite Status Fla...
  • Updated Advocate Scorecard (OT00-10): The Court's hearing list for this month completes the list of attorneys who will argue before the Supreme Court during October Term 2010. I'...
  • Supreme Court Justices: Age at Retirement: Using the still-fabulous Supreme Court Compendium data set, I've thrown together a chart plotting the ages of each Justice at retirement. I ...
  • Justice Thomas' History at Oral Argument: The big news in the world of the Supreme Court today is that Justice Thomas finally spoke at oral argument. It is not clear exactly what he ...
  • Updated Term Statistics: I've updated the term statistics and you can find the new versions of each chart below: Complete (includes all three charts) --- Term I...