Media for Brown v. SandersAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 11, 2005 in Brown v. Sanders
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 11, 2006 in Brown v. Sanders
We think it will clarify the analysis if we are henceforth guided by the following rule: an invalidated sentencing factor, whether it is an eligibility factor or not, will render the sentence unconstitutional by reason of its adding an improper element to the aggravation scale in the weighing process unless one of the other sentencing factors enables the sentencer to give aggravating weight to the same facts and circumstances.
Turning now to this case, in California, if the jury finds the existence of one of the eligibility factors, it is instructed to consider a separate list of sentencing factors, which include, as I have said, the circumstances of the crime of which the defendant was convicted.
This circumstances-of-the-crime factor has the effect of rendering all the specified factors nonexclusive, thus causing California to be what we used to call a non-weighing state.
But leaving aside the weighing/non-weighing dichotomy -- and of course, the 9th Circuit held the opposite, that it was a weighing state -- but leaving aside the weighing/non-weighing dichotomy, all of the facts and circumstances admissible to establish the invalidated eligibility factors were also properly adduced as aggravating factors bearing upon the circumstances of the crime-sentencing factor.
They were properly considered, whether or not they bore upon the invalidated factor.
As a result, the jury’s consideration of those invalid eligibility factors in the weighing process gave rise to no constitutional violation, and the Court of Appeals therefore erred in ordering habeas relief.
Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the 9th Circuit and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Souter has joined; Justice Bryer has filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Ginsburg has joined.