Law School Case Brief
Brown v. Texas - 522 U.S. 940, 118 S. Ct. 355 (1997)
The Supreme Court of the United States' action in denying certiorari does not constitute either a decision on the merits of a questions presented or an appraisal of their importance. Moreover, the likelihood that an issue will be resolved correctly may increase if the Court allows other tribunals to serve as laboratories in which the issue receives further study before it is addressed by the Court.
In Texas, although juries were required to assess a capital defendant's "future dangerousness" before sentencing him to death, a capital defendant was prohibited from presenting truthful information to his jury about when he would be eligible for parole if sentenced to life imprisonment. Petitioner Arthur Brown, Jr., would have been required to spend 35 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole if he had been sentenced to life imprisonment. At trial in Texas state court, he sought to present this truthful information to the jury, coupled with evidence that people become less dangerous over time. He was prohibited from doing so by Texas law. When the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas denied him of relief, Brown sought a writ of certiorari.
Should the Court grant Brown's petition for certiorari?
The Court denied the petition for a writ of certiorari. The Court concluded that the Texas law prohibiting presentation of truthful information regarding eligibility of parole unquestionably tipped the scales in favor of a death sentence that a fully informed jury might not impose. Nevertheless, the Court noted that its primary purpose in writing was not to comment on the merits of Brown's Constitutional claims, but to reiterate the important point that the Court's action in denying certiorari did not constitute either a decision on the merits of the questions presented or an appraisal of their importance. The likelihood that the issue would be resolved correctly may increase if the Court allowed other tribunals to serve as laboratories in which the issue received further study before it was addressed by the Court.
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