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.