Bosse v. Oklahoma

PETITIONER: Shaun Michael Bosse
RESPONDENT: Oklahoma
LOCATION: Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals

DOCKET NO.: 15-9173
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2016- )
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 580 US (2016)
GRANTED: Oct 11, 2016
DECIDED: Oct 11, 2016

Facts of the case

In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Booth v. Maryland that the Eighth Amendment prohibits a sentencing jury in a death penalty case from considering victim impact evidence that does not directly relate to the circumstances of the crime. In Payne v. Tennessee, four years later, the Supreme Court determined that the ban only applied to victim impact testimony. Because Payne did not deal with the victim’s family member’s characterizations of the defendant, the crime, or the sentence as Booth had, the Payne Court did not address these types of evidence.

Shaun Michael Bosse was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder for killing Katrina Griffin and her two children. The prosecution sought the death penalty and, over Bosse’s objection, asked three of the victims’ family members to recommend a sentence to the jury. All three recommended the death penalty, and the jury sentenced Bosse to death. Bosse appealed and argued that the sentencing process had violated the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Booth. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the sentence and held that Payne had “implicitly overruled” Booth as it related to characterizations of the defendant and opinions about the sentence.

Question

Did the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Payne v. Tennessee overrule the Court’s decision in Booth v. Maryland that the Eighth Amendment prohibited testimony by the victim’s family members regarding their opinions about the defendant, the crime, or the sentence?

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