Spaziano v. Florida

LOCATION: The D&B Corporation

DOCKET NO.: 83-5596
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: Florida Supreme Court

CITATION: 468 US 447 (1984)
ARGUED: Apr 17, 1984
DECIDED: Jul 02, 1984

Craig S. Barnard - on behalf of the Petitioner
Mark C. Menser - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case


Media for Spaziano v. Florida

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 17, 1984 in Spaziano v. Florida

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Barnard, I think you may proceed when you're ready.

Craig S. Barnard:

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

Mr. Spaziano is before the Court for review of a death sentence imposed by the State of Florida.

The questions presented here involve whether the procedures that were followed were adequate to assure reliability of either the guilt determination or the penalty determination.

Despite the evidence and the verdict, Mr. Spaziano may or may not be guilty of first degree murder.

This is so because the jury was not given options in its guilt deliberations.

The one option that the jury did have, the sentencing verdict it did choose to exercise, and that was overriden by a judge that was not... the judge that was not privy to the guilt deliberations of the jury.

The death sentence in this case thus results from--

Warren E. Burger:

Well, when you say the judge was not privy, the judge was there when the penalty jury took place, was he not?

Craig S. Barnard:

--My point was simply that the judge was not a part of the guilt deliberations, and that--

Warren E. Burger:

Well, of course, the judge never is, is he?

Craig S. Barnard:

--That's correct.

Warren E. Burger:

And the jury... I see your point.

Craig S. Barnard:

Well, there are dual constraints on the power of the jury's decisionmaking here.

There were constraints in the guilt phase on the jury's ability to evaluate the defendant's culpability in any reasonable manner.

The question here is whether, in the guilt phase, the jury must be given more than two options; or, if not, must the jury... the jury's verdict for life in the second phase at least be accorded finality.

Warren E. Burger:

If you prevail in this case, counsel, what's the consequence of your prevailing?

A new trial?

Craig S. Barnard:

I believe a new trial is appropriate under Beck.

Warren E. Burger:

On the imposition of a life sentence.

Would that be of any--

Craig S. Barnard:

The imposition of a life sentence, I believe, would be at least how far the relief had to go.

The question as to whether a new trial is required was not settled in Beck, but the logic of Beck would indicate that a new trial is required, because the harm in Beck was the harm of a distorted fact finding at a time when the defendant's life was at stake.

John Paul Stevens:

--Mr. Barnard, you're arguing two quite separate points, though, aren't you?

That wouldn't be true of both of your points, would it?

You have a lesser included offense argument, as I understand it, and also you argue that the jury should not have been overridden on the penalty phase.

Craig S. Barnard:

That's correct.

John Paul Stevens:

As to the latter, you wouldn't want to get a new trial, would you?

Craig S. Barnard:


But the first issue is the Beck issue.