High Court Hears Death Appeal Retroactivity Case

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The Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday on whether a 2002 ruling that requires juries, not judges, to decide whether someone gets the death penalty should be applied retroactively. A decision in the case from Arizona could determine whether more than 100 condemned prisoners, mostly in the West, may get new sentencing hearings, reports USA Today.

A major question is whether the 2002 jury principle is essential to the fundamental fairness of a criminal proceeding. The court sets a high bar for applying a new ruling to past cases. Justice Antonin Scalia said the 2002 case was “just a correction” and hardly a “watershed.”

Other justices expressed concern. “We will have the spectacle of someone going to his death” based on an unconstitutional practice, Stephen Breyer said.

Link: http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2004-04-19-death-penalty_x.htm

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