Supreme Court: Oral Arguments Today

Via Mark Godsey at Crim Prof Blog: The Supreme Court will hear oral argument today in two cases, including one which will determine whether a death penalty jury must be advised that if it rejects death, the defendant will receive life without parole.

Rompilla v. Beard, 04-5462, questions presented: (1) Does Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154 (1994) require a life-without-parole jury instruction where the only alternative to a death sentence under state law is life without the possibility of parole? (2) Has a defendant received unconsitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel at a capital sentencing hearing where counsel does not review the defendant's prior conviction record which would provide mitigating evidence regarding the defendant's traumatic childhood and mental health impairments? More details here.

This is a big deal because jurors may be afraid to vote for life thinking that someday the defendant will be released on parole and able to commit another crime. If the jury was told that the defendant will never leave jail, except in a pine box, they might be more apt to render a life verdict instead of a death verdict.

What we need is to move towards a system where we life-qualify jurors instead of death-qualify them. Every juror should be required to state that they could return a life verdict, no matter how heinous the crime, before being allowed to sit in a capital case.

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  • Re: Supreme Court: Oral Arguments Today (none / 0) (#1)
    by wishful on Tue Jan 18, 2005 at 07:10:47 AM EST
    I know the law is a complex thing, but aren't the answers to these questions common sense? How can they have reached this level (SC)? How can common sense and the law be diametrically opposed? Why would we want juries to be uninformed, and then think that we care for justice? How coud a citizen be presumed to have effective assistance while that counsel knows not of his client's law-related past that is on the record? How, how, how?

    Re: Supreme Court: Oral Arguments Today (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Tue Jan 18, 2005 at 07:22:25 AM EST
    Most people don't have an attorney before they get in trouble and don't know where to go for advice. So they pick a name out of the phone book or listen to the recommendations of acquaintences or use a public defender. Like an other field, the best command the top fees. What that means is that the less wealthy get less effective counsel, as a general rule. How many of these problems that we see - innocents in jail, ineffective assistance of counsel, etc. - would there be if every defendent were represented by the top defense attorneys in the country?

    Re: Supreme Court: Oral Arguments Today (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Tue Jan 18, 2005 at 07:59:29 AM EST
    Life in prison or Death, death would be the way to go, Because Prison and i mean all prisons are nothing but a form of living death. But the question is did that person do the killing or is that person insane? and will that person be saved, most did do the art of murder and all are insane, so were is the line? Only god knows that? so god help us all from going Something insane in this empire.

    Re: Supreme Court: Oral Arguments Today (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Tue Jan 18, 2005 at 08:07:31 AM EST
    Fred, Fred, Fred. You can get out of prison. You can't get out of death. Oh, and not everyone in prison killed someone with the "art of murder," as you so bizarrly (sp?) put it.

    Re: Supreme Court: Oral Arguments Today (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Tue Jan 18, 2005 at 07:07:45 PM EST
    Sorry, but whenever I see the phrases "Supreme Court" and "oral argument", I tend to flash on Justice Thomas intoning from the bench: "I will receive oral now!" Hey, I just can't take this guy seriously.