Lexis Nexis - Case Brief

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Law School Case Brief

Woodson v. North Carolina - 428 U.S. 280, 96 S. Ct. 2978, 49 L. Ed. 2d 944, 1976 U.S. LEXIS 85

Rule:

The vesting of standardless sentencing power in the jury in imposing the death sentence violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Facts:

Defendants participated in an armed robbery during which one person was killed and another severely wounded. They were convicted in state court of first-degree murder, which imposed a mandatory death sentence. Defendants challenged that the sentence was unconstitutional and petitioned for a writ of certiorari. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Issue:

Does the imposition of mandatory death sentence against the petitioner violate their eight and fourth amendment rights?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court reversed the state court's imposition of death sentences on Defendants, holding that the state statute that mandated the death penalty for all persons convicted of first degree murder violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. No standards guided the jury, and the jury was not allowed to consider the character and records of Defendants or the circumstances. The state's power to punish was limited by these standards.

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