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NCJ Number: 134406 Find in a Library
Title: Capital Sentencing After Walton v. Arizona: A Retreat From the "Death is Different" Doctrine
Journal: American University Law Review  Volume:40  Issue:4  Dated:(Summer 1991)  Pages:1389-1429
Author(s): D R Harris
Date Published: 1991
Page Count: 41
Type: Survey
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The U.S. Supreme Court first distinguished between capital punishment and other punishments in its landmark ruling, Furman v. Georgia, which declared all death penalty statutes unconstitutional as a violation of the eighth amendment against cruel and unusual punishment. The Court imposed two requirements to regulate constitutional capital punishment: that a valid death sentence not result from unguided discretion and that all relevant mitigating evidence be considered to ensure individualized sentencing determination.
Abstract: However, in Walton v. Arizona, the Court departed from this principle after two decades of consistent application by including two provisions opposed to the "death is different" doctrine: that consideration of mitigating evidence not established by preponderance of the evidence be precluded and that the defendant must show mitigating circumstances sufficient to outweigh all aggravating factors presented by the State. This article traces the evolution of capital sentencing jurisprudence, outlines the decision in Walton v. Arizona, analyzes the plurality opinion, and investigates the potential ramifications of the decision on the lower courts and on legislative efforts to expedite the capital sentencing process. The author concludes that the Supreme Court has begun to erode the fundamental distinction between the death sentence and other punishments, thereby opening the door to changes in the constitutional protections designed to avoid unfair, biased, and capricious application of capital punishment. 237 notes
Main Term(s): Capital punishment; US Supreme Court decisions
Index Term(s): Cruel and unusual punishment
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