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Supreme Court of the United States
January 18, 1994, Argued ; June 17, 1994, Decided
[*156] [***138] [**2190] JUSTICE BLACKMUN announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which JUSTICE STEVENS, JUSTICE SOUTER, and JUSTICE GINSBURG join.
This case presents the question whether the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was violated by the refusal of a state trial court to instruct the jury in the penalty phase of a capital trial that under state law the defendant was ineligible for parole. We hold that where the defendant's future dangerousness is at issue, and state law prohibits the defendant's release on parole, due process requires that the sentencing jury be informed that the defendant is parole ineligible.
In July 1990, petitioner [****6] beat to death an elderly woman, Josie Lamb, in her home in Columbia, South Carolina. The week before petitioner's capital murder trial was scheduled to begin, he pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary and two counts of criminal sexual conduct in connection with two prior assaults on elderly women. Petitioner's guilty pleas resulted in convictions for violent offenses, and those convictions rendered petitioner ineligible for parole if convicted of any subsequent violent-crime offense. S. C. Code Ann. § 24-21-640 (Supp. 1993).
Prior to jury selection, the prosecution advised the trial judge that the State "obviously [was] going to ask you to exclude any mention of parole throughout this trial." App. 2. Over defense counsel's objection, the trial court granted the prosecution's motion for an order barring the [*157] defense from asking any question during voir dire regarding parole. Under the court's order, defense counsel was forbidden even to mention the subject of parole, and expressly was prohibited from questioning prospective jurors as to whether they understood the meaning of a "life" sentence under South Carolina law. 2 After a 3-day trial, petitioner was convicted [****7] of the murder of Ms. Lamb.
During the penalty phase, the defense brought forward mitigating evidence tending to show that petitioner's violent behavior reflected serious mental disorders that stemmed from years of neglect and extreme sexual and physical abuse petitioner endured as an adolescent. While there was some disagreement among witnesses regarding the extent to which petitioner's mental condition properly [***139] could be deemed a "disorder," witnesses for both the defense and the prosecution agreed that petitioner posed a continuing danger to elderly women.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
512 U.S. 154 *; 114 S. Ct. 2187 **; 129 L. Ed. 2d 133 ***; 1994 U.S. LEXIS 4640 ****; 62 U.S.L.W. 4509; 94 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4518; 94 Daily Journal DAR 8394; 8 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 277
JONATHAN DALE SIMMONS, PETITIONER v. SOUTH CAROLINA
Prior History: [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF SOUTH CAROLINA.
Disposition: 310 S. C. 439, 427 S. E. 2d 175, reversed and remanded.
parole, sentencing, future dangerousness, parole ineligibility, life imprisonment, due process, inform, ineligible, jurors, capital sentencing, death sentence, death penalty, prison, state law, possibility of parole, trial court, phase, plurality opinion, sentencing jury, elderly woman, trial judge, murder, join, parole eligibility, self-defense, recommend, rebut, sentence of life imprisonment, release from prison, defense counsel
Criminal Law & Procedure, Adjustments & Enhancements, Criminal History, General Overview, Postconviction Proceedings, Parole, Civil Procedure, Trials, Jury Trials, Jury Deliberations, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Sentencing, Capital Punishment, Aggravating Circumstances, Bifurcated Trials, Mitigating Circumstances, Jury Instructions, Particular Instructions, Sentencing Alternatives, Life Imprisonment in Capital Cases