A follow-up to an August ruling by the Delaware Supreme Court that the death penalty is unconstitutional has stated that this decision is retroactive. The ruling was for an appeal by a defendant accused of killing a Georgetown police officer in 2009.
12 Death Row Inmates Likely Spared
While the decision was for the appeals case, it is likely that the defendant and another 11 inmates on Delaware’s death row will be spared from execution.
In the August ruling, the Supreme Court judges ruled that the death penalty in the state was unconstitutional because it didn’t require that the jury unanimously, and beyond a reasonable doubt, find that the defendant deserved to die. It also gave judges too much discretion when it came to sentencing.
Follows U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Florida’s Death Penalty
The Delaware ruling came after the Florida death penalty law was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. That law also gave the final say on the death penalty sentence to judges. There is only one other state that currently allows judges to sentence an offender to the death penalty or life in prison no matter what the jury has decided.
Previous Death Penalty Rulings
In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in “Teague v. Lane” that applying a new criminal law retroactively could not be done unless it fell under two exceptions. Those are for “watershed rules of criminal procedure” and for new “substantive” rules. Delaware’s recent decision said, “The burden of proof is one of those rules that has both procedural and substantive ramifications.” Before the ruling in August, the recommendation of death by a jury only had to be based on “a preponderance of the evidence.”
The Delaware jury that sentenced the man to death did so on a vote of 7 to 5. That jury recommended the death sentence on “a preponderance of the evidence that aggravating factors outweighed mitigating factors.”
Delaware’s Death Row Disbanded
Prison officials disbanded death row earlier this year. The inmates were placed in other housing, even though some were placed with inmates who had not faced the death penalty.
Fighting the Death Penalty
Is someone you love charged with a death penalty crime? If so, it is imperative that an experienced criminal defense attorney build a strong case in your loved one’s defense. Understanding the recent court cases dealing with the death penalty in other states and the U.S. Supreme Court is also important.
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