Deck v. Missouri Case Brief

Facts of the Case

Petitioner Carman Deck was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, but the Missouri Supreme Court set aside the sentence. At his new sentencing proceeding, he was shackled with leg irons, handcuffs, and a belly chain. The trial court overruled counsel’s objections to the shackles, and Deck was again sentenced to death. Affirming, the State Supreme Court rejected Deck’s claim that his shackling violated,the Federal Constitution. The United States Supreme Court granted Deck’s petition for certiorari review.


An Arizona law requires state employers to check the immigration status of job applicants through a federal computer database, although the federal law creating the database makes its use voluntary. Arizona also revokes the business license of state companies that hire undocumented workers. Are these provisions pre-empted by federal immigration laws?


Yes. Justice Stephen Breyer delivered the Court’s 7-2 holding that the Constitution forbids the use of visible shackles during both a capital trial’s guilt and penalty phases, unless such shackling is justified by an essential state interest specific to the defendant on trial (such as courtroom security). The majority argued that the law has long forbidden use of visible shackles during a capital trial’s guilt phase, and that the reasons underlying this prohibition (like the possibility shackles will bias the jury) extend this rule to the penalty phase.

Case Information

Citation: 544 US 622 (2005)
Granted: Oct 18, 2004
Argued: Mar 1, 2005
Decided: May 23, 2005
Case Brief: 2005