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NCJ Number: 150002 Find in a Library
Title: Eighth Amendment: Sentencer Discretion in Capital Sentencing Schemes
Journal: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology  Volume:84  Issue:4  Dated:(Winter-Spring 1994)  Pages:827-882
Author(s): J M Brown
Date Published: 1994
Page Count: 56
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article critiques the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Arave v. Creech (1993), which considered the constitutionality of a statutory aggravating circumstance to be considered by Idaho judges in capital cases.
Abstract: In accordance with its jurisprudence in this area, the Court did not examine the circumstance on its face, which allowed the death penalty to be imposed if the murderer exhibited "utter disregard for human life." Rather, the Court considered the Idaho Supreme Court's "narrowing construction," which, the Court found, applied the "utter disregard" aggravating circumstance exclusively to "cold- blooded pitiless slayers." The Court held that this narrowing construction of the aggravating circumstance both sufficiently channeled the sentencing judge's discretion and genuinely narrowed the class of persons eligible for capital punishment and therefore precluded arbitrary and capricious administration of the death penalty. Hence, the Idaho statute did not violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. This analysis examines the development of the U.S. Supreme Court's jurisprudence concerning sentencer discretion in State capital sentencing schemes. It argues that in this case the Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of further channeling a State's narrowing construction of an aggravating circumstance and, as a result, approved an aggravating circumstance that provides less guidance to a sentencer than any previously validated by the Court. 221 footnotes
Main Term(s): US Supreme Court decisions
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Judicial discretion; Sentencing/Sanctions
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