The Supreme Court of the United States has denied certiorari in two important Florida death penalty appeals, which questioned current jury instructions given in capital cases.
SCOTUS Dissent in Challenge to Florida Jury Instructions in Death Penalty Cases
From Justice Sotomayer, a dissent joined by Justice Ginsburg and Justice Breyer, stating in part:
“At least twice now, capital defendants in Florida have raised an important Eighth Amendment challenge to their death sentences that the Florida Supreme Court has failed to address. Specifically, those capital defendants, petitioners here, argue that the jury instructions in their cases impermissibly diminished the jurors’ sense of responsibility as to the ultimate determination of death by repeatedly emphasizing that their verdict was merely advisory. “This Court has always premised its capital punishment decisions on the assumption that a capital sentencing jury recognizes the gravity of its task,” and we have thus found unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment comments that “minimize the jury’s sense of responsibility for determining the appropriateness of death.” Caldwell v. Mississippi, 472 U. S. 320, 341 (1985). ….
“Because petitioners here raised a potentially meritorious Eighth Amendment challenge to their death sentences, and because the stakes in capital cases are too high to ignore such constitutional challenges, I dissent from the Court’s refusal to correct that error.”
Read the full dissent in Truehill v. Florida / Oliver v. Florida, placed for future reference in the Terence Lenamon Online Library: