Parker v. Dugger

LOCATION:District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division

DOCKET NO.: 89-5961
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1990-1991)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CITATION: 498 US 308 (1991)
ARGUED: Nov 07, 1990
DECIDED: Jan 22, 1991

Carolyn M. Snurkowski – on behalf of the Respondents
Robert J. Link – on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Parker v. Dugger

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – November 07, 1990 in Parker v. Dugger

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – January 22, 1991 in Parker v. Dugger

Sandra Day O’Connor:

The second case is 89-5961, Parker against Dugger which comes to us on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

In this case, we hold today that the Florida Supreme Court acted arbitrarily in affirming Parker’s death sentence because it failed to treat adequately the evidence of mitigating circumstances in the record.

The state trial judge overrode a jury’s recommendation and sentenced Parker to death finding six statutory aggravating circumstances and no statutory mitigating circumstances.

The trial judge made no explicit finding as to non-statutory mitigating circumstances.

On direct review, the Florida Supreme Court struck two of the aggravating circumstances relied on by the trial judge.

But, nonetheless, upheld the death sentence based on what it believed to be the trial judge’s conclusion that there were no mitigating circumstances.

Upon a review of the record, we conclude that the trial judge must have found non-statutory mitigating circumstances.

In such a case, the Florida Supreme Court after striking two aggravating circumstances, could have reweighed the evidence or it could have conducted a harmless error analysis.

It did neither, instead, the Florida Supreme Court simply affirmed the sentence based on non-existent Trial Court findings.

The Supreme Court of Florida, thereby, deprived Parker of the individualized sentencing to which he is entitled under the Constitution.

The judgment of the Court of the Appeals is reversed and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

As to Parker’s remaining questions in his petition for certiorari, they are dismissed as improvidently granted.

Justice White has filed a dissenting opinion which is joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Scalia and Kennedy.