Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group Podcast
The Supreme Court issued its 7-1 ruling in Foster v. Chatman on May 23, reversing the Supreme Court of Georgia and remanding the case. Foster was convicted of murder and sentenced to death three decades ago by an all-white jury. The prosecutor struck all of the black jurors and had plans to do so before the voir dire began. The prosecution presented several race-neutral reasons for striking the jurors, and the Georgia courts ruled against the Batson claim. Foster later gained access to the prosecution's jury-selection notes that showed some racial pretext and used them for a renewed Batson claim. The Georgia courts rejected the claim as barred by state res judicata. Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the majority of the court finding that the court did still have jurisdiction and impermissible racial pretext was apparent for at least two of the state's peremptory strikes. Justice Thomas wrote a firm dissent where he doubted the court's jurisdiction. This Teleforum discussed the ramifications of this decision on the future of Batson deference, res judicata, and how this case might affect capital appeals pending throughout the nation.
SCOTUScast 4-20-16 featuring Kent S. Scheidegger
- Prof. Joseph L. Hoffmann, Harry Pratter Professor of Law and Director for Strategic Projects, Indiana University Maurer School of Law
On January 20, 2016, the Supreme Court decided three consolidated death penalty cases: Kansas v. Carr, a second Kansas v. Carr, and Kansas v. Gleason.
A Kansas jury sentenced Sidney Gleason to death for killing a co-conspirator and her boyfriend to cover up the robbery of an elderly man. In a joint proceeding, a Kansas jury also sentenced brothers Reginald and Jonathan Carr to death for a crime spree that culminated in the brutal rape, robbery, kidnapping, and execution-style shooting of five young men and women. The Supreme Court of Kansas vacated the death sentences in each case, holding that the sentencing instructions violated the Eighth Amendment by failing “to affirmatively inform the jury that mitigating circumstances need only be proved to the satisfaction of the individual juror in that juror’s sentencing decision and not beyond a reasonable doubt.” It also held that the Carrs’ Eighth Amendment right “to an individualized capital sentencing determination” was violated by the trial court’s failure to sever their sentencing proceedings.
The two questions before the U.S. Supreme Court were: (1) whether the Constitution required the sentencing courts to instruct the juries that mitigating circumstances “need not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt”; and (2) whether the Constitution required severance of the Carrs’ joint sentencing proceedings.
By a vote of 8-1, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Kansas Supreme Court and remanded the cases. Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court, which held that (1) the Eighth Amendment does not require capital-sentencing courts to instruct a jury that mitigating circumstances need not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, and (2) the Constitution did not require severance of joint sentencing proceedings because the contention that the admission of mitigating evidence by one defendant could have "so infected" the jury's consideration of the other defendant's sentence as to amount to a denial of due process does not stand in light of all the evidence presented at the guilty and penalty phases relevant to the jury's sentencing determination. Justice Scalia’s majority opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, and Kagan. Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion.
To discuss the case, we have Kent S. Scheidegger, who is Legal Director & General Counsel at Criminal Justice Legal Foundation. SCOTUScast featuring Jack Park
John J. Park, Jr. February 11, 2016
On January 12, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Hurst v. Florida. The question before the Court was whether Florida’s death sentencing scheme--which Hurst contends does not require unanimity in the jury death recommendation or in the finding of underlying aggravating factors--violates the Sixth and/or Eighth Amendments in light of the Court’s 2002 decision Ring v. Arizona, which requires that the aggravating factors necessary for imposition of a death sentence be found by a jury. The Florida Supreme Court upheld Hurst’s death sentence.
By a vote of 8-1, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Florida Supreme Court and remanded the case, holding that Florida’s capital sentencing scheme did violate the Sixth Amendment in light of Ring. Justice Sotomayor’s opinion for the Court was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, and Kagan. Justice Breyer filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion.
To discuss the case, we have Jack Park, who is Of Counsel with Strickland Brockington Lewis LLP. SCOTUScast 11-7-15 featuring Jack Park
John J. Park, Jr. November 07, 2015
On October 13, 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Hurst v. Florida. Timothy Lee Hurst was convicted of murdering his co-worker and sentenced to death after a jury recommended that penalty by a vote of 7-5. The question before the Court here is whether Florida’s death sentencing scheme--which Hurst contends does not require unanimity in the jury death recommendation or in the finding of underlying aggravating factors--violates the Sixth or Eighth Amendments in light of the Court’s 2002 decision Ring v. Arizona, which holds that the aggravating factors necessary for imposition of a death sentence be found by a jury.
To discuss the case, we have Jack Park, who is Of Counsel with Strickland Brockington Lewis LLP. Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group Podcast
William J. Haun October 08, 2015
Somewhat overlooked at the end of the United States Supreme Court’s October 2014 term was a contentious 5-4 decision on the application of the death penalty in Glossip v. Gross. On Wednesday, October 7, the second day of oral arguments for the term, the Supreme Court wasted no time in turning its attention back towards the death penalty in Kansas v. Gleason and Kansas v. Carr. The cases ask the Court to decide whether the Eighth Amendment requires that capital juries be “affirmatively instructed” that mitigating circumstances need not be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Will the October 2015 term be remembered, as some commentators are predicting, for its remarkable Eighth Amendment focus?
- William J. Haun, Associate, Hunton & Williams LLP