McKinney v. Arizona

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: February 25, 2020
  • Case #: 18-1109
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: KAVANAUGH, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS, ALITO, and GORSUCH, JJ., joined. GINSBURG, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

A Clemons reweighing is a permissible remedy for an Eddings error, and when an Eddings error is found on collateral review, a state appellate court may conduct a Clemons reweighing on collateral review.

Petitioner was sentenced to death for two counts of first-degree murder. On federal habeas corpus review, the Ninth Circuit remanded, holding that Arizona courts failed to properly consider Petitioner’s PTSD, violating Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104 (1982) (A capital sentencer may not refuse to consider relevant mitigating evidence). On remand, Petitioner argued that he was “entitled to resentencing by a jury.” The Arizona Supreme Court disagreed and conducted a Clemons v. Mississippi reweighing of the aggravating and mitigating factors, including the PTSD,and affirmed Petitioner’s death sentences. 494 U.S. 738 (1990). The United States Supreme Court found that a Clemons reweighing is a permissible remedy for an Eddings error. The Court stated that it was permissible as a matter of state law because the Arizona Supreme Court was conducting an independent review in a collateral proceeding, not on direct review. The Court explained that while a jury must find the existence of an aggravating fact for death sentence eligibility, a jury is not constitutionally required to weigh the circumstances or make the ultimate sentencing decision within the sentencing range. Appellate reweighing is not a sentencing proceeding that must be conducted by a jury and courts routinely conduct such review in collateral proceedings because it is more like harmless-error review. AFFIRMED.


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