McKinney v. Arizona

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: June 10, 2019
  • Case #: 18-1109
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 426 P.3d 1204 (Ariz. 2018)
  • Full Text Opinion

(1) Whether the Arizona Supreme Court was required to apply current law when weighing mitigating and aggravating evidence to determine whether a death sentence is warranted. (2) Whether the correction of error under Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104 (1982) requires resentencing.

Petitioner was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder. State law prohibited the trial judge from considering Petitioner’s PTSD as mitigating evidence because it was not causally connected to the crime. Petitioner was sentenced to death, and the state supreme court affirmed. Petitioner filed a writ of habeas corpus, arguing that his death sentence violated Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104 (1982). The district court denied relief, and a Ninth Circuit panel affirmed. The circuit granted a rehearing en banc and reversed, holding that “both the trial judge and the [state] supreme court had committed Eddings error, and that the error was not harmless.” The circuit remanded to district court to grant the writ unless the state “either correct[ed] the constitutional error in his death sentence or vacate[d] the sentence and impose[d] a lesser sentence consistent with law.” The state moved for review by the state supreme court. Petitioner opposed, arguing that “he was entitled to resentencing by a jury under Ring and Hurst.” The court granted the motion, concluding that Petitioner was not entitled to a rehearing because his sentence was passed before Ring was decided. The court conducted a de novo review of Petitioner’s sentence, affording his mitigating evidence minimal weight, and affirmed. Petitioner argues that courts must apply current law when weighing mitigating evidence to review a death sentence. Petitioner further argues that Eddings errors must be remedied through resentencing by a jury.

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