Kansas v. Carr
Holding: 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. 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.
Judgment: Reversed, 8-1, in an opinion by Justice Scalia on January 20, 2016. Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion.
Hurst v. Florida
Holding: Florida's capital-sentencing scheme, in which a jury renders an “advisory sentence” but a judge must independently weigh the aggravating and mitigating factors before entering a sentence of life or death, violates the Sixth Amendment in light of the Court's decision in Ring v. Arizona, which deemed unconstitutional an Arizona capital sentencing scheme that permitted a judge rather than the jury to find the facts necessary to sentence a defendant to death.
Judgment: Reversed, 8-1, in an opinion by Justice Sotomayor on January 12, 2016. Justice Breyer filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion.
Resolution on Re-entry Unanimously Passes the House of Delegates of NYSBA on Jan. 29, 2016
Ronald Tabak, Chair of Section Death Penalty Committee
Related ABA Policies
Moratorium on Executions. Urges jurisdictions that impose capital punishment not to carry out the death penalty until the jurisdiction implements policies and procedures that are consistent with four longstanding Association policies intended to (1) ensure that death penalty cases are administered fairly and impartially, in accordance with due process, and (2) minimize the risk that innocent persons may be executed, with the understanding that, apart from existing policies relating to offenders who are mentally retarded or under the age of 18 at the time of the commission of the offense, the Association takes no position on the death penalty. (Feb. 1997)
Death Penalty (Counsel). Urges implementation of certain measures in the litigation of death penalty cases, including the provision of competent and adequately compensated counsel, and commends to Congress sample legislation as a way to implement the recommendations. (Feb. 1990)
Mental Retardation and the Death Penalty. Urges that no person with mental retardation, as now defined by the American Association on Retardation, be sentenced to death or executed. Supports enactment of legislation barring the execution of defendants with mental retardation. (Feb. 1989)
Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Counsel in Death Penalty Cases. Recommends the adoption of Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Counsel in Death Penalty Cases by entities providing counsel in death penalty cases, subject to such exceptions as may be appropriate in the military. (Feb. 1989)
Habeas corpus. Supports full utilization of certain provisions pertaining to representation in federal habeas corpus death penalty proceedings and acknowledge the efforts of the federal judges to implement them. Urges federal district and circuit courts to adopt and federal judicial councils to approve (1) a plan for providing representation in federal habeas corpus death penalty proceedings in accordance with certain procedures, and (2) certain amendments to its Criminal Justice Act plan. Urges the federal courts to consult extensively with appropriate state criminal justice leaders in developing and carrying out such implementation plans. (Feb. 1988)
Discrimination in Capital Sentencing. Opposes discrimination in capital sentencing on the basis of the race of their the victim or the defendant; supports legislation that strives to eliminate racial discrimination in capital sentencing and that provides that a challenge to a death sentence can result in relief in certain instances. (Aug. 1988)
Death Penalty Cases (Counsel). Recommends that when attorneys are appointed to represent defendants in the trial of death penalty cases, two attorneys shall be appointed as trial counsel to represent the defendant, and that the primary attorney shall have substantial trial experience, including the trial of serious felony cases. (Feb. 1985)
Capital Punishment (Age). Opposes in principle the imposition of capital punishment upon any person for any offense committed while under the age of 18. (Aug. 1983)
Counsel in Death Cases. Urges the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt a rule providing for appointment of counsel to pursue post-conviction remedies in death penalty cases, and recommends that the Criminal Justice Act be amended to provide for adequate compensation to counsel in such cases. (Feb. 1979)