Bell v. Ohio
438 U.S. 637 (1978)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Bell v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 637 (1978)

Bell v. Ohio

No. 76-6513

Argued January 17, 1978

Decided July 3, 1978

438 U.S. 637

Syllabus

Petitioner, whose conviction of aggravated murder with a specification that it occurred during a kidnaping and death sentence were affirmed by the Ohio Supreme Court, contends that the Ohio death penalty statute (see Lockett v. Ohio, ante, p. 438 U. S. 586) violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments because it prevented the sentencing judge from considering the particular circumstances of his crime and aspects of his character and record as mitigating factors.

Held: The judgment is reversed insofar as it upholds the death penalty, and the case is remanded. Pp. 438 U. S. 642-643; 438 U. S. 624-628; 438 U. S. 643; 438 U. S. 643-644.

48 Ohio St. 2d 270, 358 N. E. 2d 556, reversed in part and remanded.

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER, joined by MR. JUSTICE STEWART, MR. JUSTICE POWELL, and MR. JUSTICE STEVENS, concluded:

1. "The Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments require that the sentencer, in all but the rarest kind of capital case, not be precluded from considering as a mitigating factor, any aspect of a defendant's character or record and any of the circumstances of the offense that the defendant proffers." Lockett v. Ohio, ante at 438 U. S. 604. P. 438 U. S. 642.

2. "The Ohio death penalty statute does not permit the type of individualized consideration of mitigating factors" that is required by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Lockett v. Ohio, ante at 438 U. S. 606. P. 438 U. S. 642.

MR. JUSTICE WHITE concluded that petitioner's death sentence should be vacated on the ground that the Ohio death penalty statute permits a defendant convicted of aggravated murder with specifications to be sentenced to death, as petitioner was in this case, without a finding that he intended death to result. Pp. 438 U. S. 624-628.

MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, being of the view that the death penalty is, under all circumstances, a cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, concurred in the judgment. Pp. 438 U. S. 643-644.

MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN concluded that petitioner's death sentence should be vacated on the ground that the Ohio death penalty statute is deficient in regard to petitioner, who was charged as an aider and abettor

Page 438 U. S. 638

in a murder, in failing to allow consideration of the degree of petitioner's involvement, and the character of his mens rea, in the crime. P. 438 U. S. 643.

BURGER, C.J., announced the Court's judgment and delivered an opinion, in Part I of which STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, and in Part II of which STEWART, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, post, p. 438 U. S. 643. MARSHALL, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 438 U. S. 643. WHITE, J., filed an opinion concurring in part, concurring in the judgment, and dissenting in part, ante p. 438 U. S. 621. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting statement, post, p. 438 U. S. 644. BRENNAN, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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