The Supreme Court today turned down appeals from death row inmates seeking to limit videos and similar material prepared by murder victims’ families for juries, reports the Associated Press. The order comes in two California cases in which jurors were shown video montages of the victims’ lives. The defendants’ claimed that the videos prejudiced the juries against them and violated their right to a fair trial. Justices Stephen Breyer, David Souter, John Paul Stevens, took exception to the majority’s decision. “The videos added nothing relevant to the jury’s deliberations and invited a verdict based on sentiment, rather than reasoned judgment,” Stevens said.
The court has held that juries can hear victim impact testimony in the penalty phase of capital cases, but it has not said whether certain testimony should be barred as prejudicial. The California Supreme Court earlier upheld both death sentences. One defendant, Douglas Kelly, was convicted of raping and murdering a 19-year-old woman. After his conviction, but before he was sentenced, the victim’s family presented the jury with a video of the woman’s life accompanied by music.