Oregon v. Guzek - Oral Argument - December 07, 2005

Oregon v. Guzek

Media for Oregon v. Guzek

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - February 22, 2006 in Oregon v. Guzek

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 07, 2005 in Oregon v. Guzek

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We'll hear argument first this morning in Oregon versus Guzek.

Ms. Williams.

Mary H. Williams:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court--

The eight amendment requires that a sentencing jury in a capital case must consider mitigation, which this Court consistently has defined as related to a defendant's background, character, or the circumstances of the offense.

The Oregon Supreme Court in this case has broadly construed circumstances of the offense to include evidence that is inconsistent with the defendant's guilt.

That holding is not constitutionally compelled and does not further the purpose of having the sentencing jury consider mitigation.

Stephen G. Breyer:

Can you--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Is it--

Stephen G. Breyer:

--Can you--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

--possible that the Supreme Court of Oregon misapprehended some of the facts in this case?

Mary H. Williams:

Justice O'Connor, it is possible that the Supreme Court was not aware that defendant's mother had testified in the--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Right.

Mary H. Williams:

--guilt phase, and that's because defendant did not raise that issue in the trial court, did not move to have her alibi testimony admitted under the State statute that would have caused the Court to address her prior--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Do we--

Mary H. Williams:

--testimony.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

--need to vacate the judgment and remand for that, or--

Mary H. Williams:

No--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

--do we just go ahead and--

Mary H. Williams:

--No, Justice O'Connor, I don't believe that there needs to be any change in the posture of the case in order... in order for the Court to address the Federal issue, and that's because the significance of the Oregon Supreme Court ruling doesn't turn on whether someone's testimony was admitted in the guilt phase, or not.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

--Well, under Oregon law, is it possible that some of the mother's testimony would be otherwise admissible at the penalty stage?

Mary H. Williams:

Under Oregon law, under the majority's holding in this case and the way they dealt with the grandfather's prior testimony, on remand defendant could have the mother's transcript from the guilt phase read, but what would be different about it under the Oregon Supreme Court holding, and what we're asking the Court to address, is what they can do with that alibi testimony, no matter what form it comes in.

And that's the significant part of the Supreme Court holding.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Well, I... may... I want you, perhaps, to elaborate on that, as well.

And perhaps the Respondent is the one to answer this question.

Do you understand that they, on remand, if they prevail in this case, would want to introduce the mother's live testimony?

Mary H. Williams:

I am not sure.

Under the--

Anthony M. Kennedy:

We're not sure--

Mary H. Williams:

--Oregon Supreme--

--Court holding, they would certainly be free to introduce her live testimony.