MCCRAY v. FLORIDA
454 U.S. 1041 (1981)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

MCCRAY v. FLORIDA , 454 U.S. 1041 (1981)

454 U.S. 1041

James Curtiss McCRAY
v.
FLORIDA
No. 80-6819

Supreme Court of the United States

November 9, 1981

On petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Florida.

The petition for writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice BRENNAN, dissenting.

Adhering to my view that the death penalty is in all circumstances cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 227, 2971, 49 L. Ed.2d 859 (1976), I would grant certiorari and vacate the death sentence in this case.

Justice MARSHALL, dissenting.

As I have consistently stated, I believe that a decision to impose the death penalty is always cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. See Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 231, 2971, 2973, 904, 907 (1976). Thus, I would grant certiorari in this case and vacate the judgment

Page 454 U.S. 1041 , 1042

insofar as it leaves undisturbed the death sentence. I would also grant certiorari on an additional ground. Petitioner argues that the death penalty has been arbitrarily and capriciously imposed in this case, because the trial judge rejected the jury's recommendation that he be sentenced to life imprisonment. According to petitioner, the jury should not have been overruled, since its recommendation was not unreasonable. In my view, there is substantial merit to this claim.

I

The Florida capital punishment statute, Fla.Stat. 921.141 (1979), which this Court approved in Proffitt v. Florida, 428 U.S. 242 (1976), establishes a three-level review system. After a defendant is found guilty of a capital offense, an evidentiary hearing is held before the judge and the jury to determine the sentence. At the conclusion of the hearing, the jury considers whether "sufficient mitigating circumstances exist which outweigh the aggravating circumstances found to exist," and based on these considerations, "whether the defendant should be sentenced to life imprisonment or death." 921. 141(2)(b) and (c).

The jury's verdict is advisory only; the actual sentence is imposed by the trial judge after he conducts his own review of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances. However, the Florida Supreme Court 395 So.2d 1145 has stated that the jury recommendation is entitled to substantial weight. "In order to sustain a sentence of death following a jury recommendation of life, the facts suggesting a sentence of death should be so clear and convincing that virtually no reasonable person could differ." Tedder v. State, 322 So.2d 908, 910 (1975). Accord, Thompson v. State, 328 So.2d 1, 5 (Fla.1976). See also Proffitt v. Florida, supra. Judges are given the power to override jury verdicts only because of the possibility that in isolated cases juries will unreasonably reject death. See Chambers v. State, 339 So.2d 204, 208-209 (Fla.1976). [454 U.S. 1041 , 1043]


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