LOCATION:United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division
DOCKET NO.: 85-6756
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
CITATION: 481 US 393 (1987)
ARGUED: Oct 15, 1986
DECIDED: Apr 22, 1987
Craig S. Barnard – on behalf of Petitioner
Sean Daly – on behalf of Respondent
Media for Hitchcock v. Dugger
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – April 22, 1987 in Hitchcock v. Dugger
Hitchhock versus Duggers comes to us from the Eleventh Circuit.
Petitioner was convicted of first degree murder.
At his sentencing hearing, the trial judge instructed the advisory jury not to consider evidence of mitigating circumstances not specifically enumerated in the Florida death penalty statue.
The trial judge also refused to consider such evidence himself.
Petitioner was sentenced to death.
Following unsuccessful appeals in state and federal collateral proceedings, petitioner applied for the writ of habeas corpus in Federal District Court, claiming that his sentence was invalid because the advisory jury and the sentencing judge had not considered evidence of non statutory mitigating circumstances.
The District Court denied the application and the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed.
We granted certiorari and now reverse.
Petitioner was sentenced to death in proceedings that did not comport with the requirement of our cases that the capital sentencing authority may neither refuse to consider nor be precluded from considering all relevant mitigating evidence.
Under the circumstances of this case, petitioner’s death sentence must be vacated.
The case is remanded and the District Court is to be instructed to issue a writ of habeas corpus unless the state lawfully re-sentences petitioner within a reasonable time.
The Court’s opinion is unanimous.