The Supreme Court has held that in the sentencing phase of a capital trial, the defense has a right to present any evidence about the life and background of the defendant that may be a basis for a sentence less than death. This class examines the Court’s decisions, the kinds of evidence often presented in mitigation, and the challenges of finding and presenting such evidence. Susan Marcus, an attorney and mitigation expert, discusses how a defendant’s legal team investigates a defendant’s life and background based on her experiences. The Court also held that states may allow the presentation of victim impact evidence to show the impact of the crime on the family and community of the victim. This type of evidence is controversial, because of its often emotional, even inflammatory nature, and there are issues regarding its relevance. Is victim impact evidence relevant to the culpability of the defendant? We examine some examples of victim impact testimony and court decisions regarding it. Prof. Bright analyzes the cases and discusses the issues with Yale Law students.
The segment includes a discussion of the Supreme Court’s decisions allowing consideration of mitigating circumstances, the kinds of evidence presented in mitigation, and the challenges of finding and presenting such evidence. Then Susan Marcus, an attorney and mitigation expert, discusses the investigation of a defendant’s life and background based on her experiences, including developing a case in mitigation for a defendant from Vietnam.
Mitigation (PDF), including:
- Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586 (1978)
- Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104 (1982)
- Other Decisions on Mitigating Circumstances
- Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U.S. 302 (1989)
- The Texas Statute as amended after Penry
- Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782 (2001)
- Justices Scalia and Thomas depart from Lockett v. Ohio.
- Tennard v. Dretke, 542 U.S. 274 (2004)
- Smith v. Texas I and II
- Jury Instructions Regarding the Consideration of Mitigating Circumstances
- Statutes Requiring Imposition of Death
- Sarah Elizabeth Richards, “How to Humanize a Killer,” Salon, June 7, 2006.
- Craig Haney, Death by Design: Capital Punishment As a Social Psychological System (2005)
Interview: Susan Marcus
B. Victim Impact Evidence
Victim impact evidence informs the jury of the impact of the crime on the family and community of the victim. It is controversial, because of its often emotional, even inflammatory, nature. Following the lecture, Prof. Bright analyzes the cases and discusses the issue with Yale Law students.
Victim Impact Evidence (PDF), including:
- Booth v. Maryland, 482 U.S. 496 (1987)
- South Carolina v. Gathers and the Change in the Makeup of the Court
- Payne v. Tennessee, 501 U.S. 808 (1991)
- Georgia’s Victim Impact Statute
- Livingston v. State, 444 S.E.2d 748 (1994)
- Oklahoma’s Victim Impact Statute
- Oklahoma’s Victim Impact Jury Instruction
- Conover v. State of Oklahoma, 933 P.2d 904 (Oka. Crim. App. 1997)
- Note – Willingham v. State
- Ex parte Jackson, 68 So.3d 211(Ala. 2010)
- Testimony of Prison Guards and Decision of the Court in United States v. Battle
- Testimony of J. Michael Luttig in State v. Beazley
- Statement of Homer Black in State v. Simpson
- Craig Haney, “Hiding from The Death Penalty,” The Huffington Post, July 26, 2010
- Alyson R. Klein, “Killer to serve life in prison,” Baltimore Sun, July 26, 2003