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NCJ Number: 92962 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Requirement of Death - Mandatory Language in the Pennsylvania Death Penalty Statute
Journal: Duquesne Law Review  Volume:21  Issue:1  Dated:(Fall 1982)  Pages:103-157
Author(s): B S Ledewitz
Date Published: 1982
Page Count: 55
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This analysis concludes that Pennsylvania's mandatory death penalty statute is invalid because it does not satisfy the minimum standards of reliability established by the Supreme Court.
Abstract: A comparison of the Pennsylvania and Georgia death penalty statutes notes that Georgia gives the sentencer unlimited discretion to return a life sentence whereas Pennsylvania's law circumscribes sentencer discretion both in terms of the kind of evidence that may be heard and the manner in which it is to be evaluated. Several State courts have upheld the constitutionality of mandatory death penalty statutes, suggesting that they do not consider the difference between mandatory and permissive statutes as a significant issue. However, an analysis of Furman v. Georgia and Gregg v. Georgia demonstrates the conflict between nonarbitrariness and reliability and suggests that Chief Justice Burger's use of the concept of relevant mitigating evidence in Lockett v. Ohio attempted to reconcile these principles. This effort was not successful, as the entire structure of that opinion demonstrates that its starting point and major ground is reliability -- the assurance that death is the appropriate punishment. Because the concept of relevant mitigating circumstances is so flawed, Pennsylvania's mandatory scheme fails to satisfy the Supreme Court's insistence on a reliable death penalty sentencing system. Specifically, the statute does not permit the sentencer to consider attacks on the death penalty itself; it defines relevant mitigating evidence without regard for the community's desire for retribution, and requires reasons for sentencing decisions. The paper includes 276 footnotes.
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Georgia (USA); Pennsylvania; State laws
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