skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 200912 Find in a Library
Title: Shafer v. South Carolina: Another Missed Opportunity to Remove Juror Ignorance as a Factor in Capital Sentencing
Journal: The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology  Volume:93  Issue:1  Dated:Fall 2002  Pages:23-74
Author(s): William Baarsma
Editor(s): Matthew Burke
Date Published: 2002
Page Count: 52
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article reviews South Carolina’s practice of refusing to inform capital juries of a defendant’s parole ineligibility, in the U.S. Supreme Court decisions of Shafer v. South Carolina (2001) and Simmons v. South Carolina (1994), and the argument for an unconditional 8th and 14th amendment mandate that capital juries be informed of a defendant’s parole ineligibility, as part of due process in capital sentencing.
Abstract: In 1994, in Simmons v. South Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a capital defendant must be allowed to inform the jury of his prospective parole ineligibility, but only where two conditions exist. In 2001, in Shafer versus South Carolina, the Supreme Court again confronted the practice of refusing to inform capital juries choosing between a sentence of life imprisonment or death that the defendant would be statutorily ineligible for parole if sentenced to a life term. In this case the United States Supreme Court held that the Simmons rule applied to the new South Carolina sentencing scheme, thereby perpetuating the rule of Simmons. This paper reviews the history behind the Supreme Court decisions, facts and procedural history, a summary of opinions, and an analysis of the cases. Simple common sense is the argument for an unconditional 8th and 14th amendment mandate that capital juries be informed of a defendant’s parole ineligibility. Jurors should be adequately informed as to the legal framework upon which they must make their decision as to life or death. The protection of the Simmons rule, through the Shafer ruling, can lead to future executions predicated on the arbitrary and capricious basis of easily foreseeable and correctable juror ignorance.
Main Term(s): Jury decisionmaking
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Courts; Judicial process; Life sentence without parole; Life sentences; Parole eligibility; Rights of the accused; Sentencing factors; South Carolina; State supreme courts
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.