California v. Brown
475 U.S. 1301 (1986)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

California v. Brown, 475 U.S. 1301 (1986)

California v. Brown

No. A-699

Decided March 27, 1986

475 U.S. 1301

ON APPLICATION FOR STAY

California's application to stay the enforcement of the California Supreme Court's judgment -- which invalidated respondent's death sentence for first-degree murder on the ground that the Eighth Amendment to the Federal Constitution was violated by a jury instruction given during the sentencing phase of his trial that told the jury not to be swayed by "mere sentiment, conjecture, sympathy, passion, prejudice, public opinion or public feeling" -- is granted pending disposition of the State's petition for certiorari. It is likely that four Members of this Court will vote to grant certiorari to review the jury instruction issue, and that the decision below ultimately will be reversed. There is no merit to respondent's argument that the decision below was based on adequate and independent state grounds, and is therefore unreviewable by this Court. Moreover, the State has met its burden of demonstrating irreparable harm if its application for a stay is not granted.

JUSTICE REHNQUIST, Circuit Justice.

Applicant, the State of California, asks that I stay pending disposition of its petition for certiorari the enforcement of the judgment of the California Supreme Court, which invalidated the death sentence imposed on respondent Brown in 1980 for the first-degree murder of a 15-year-old girl. See 40 Cal.3d 512, 709 P.2d 440 (1986). The California Supreme Court invalidated Brown's death sentence because it believed that a jury instruction given during the sentencing phase of Brown's trial, which told the jury that it "must not be swayed by mere sentiment, conjecture, sympathy, passion, prejudice, public opinion or public feeling," violated the Eighth

Page 475 U. S. 1302

Amendment to the United States Constitution. The court felt that this instruction was incompatible with our decisions in Lockett v. Ohio,438 U. S. 586 (1978), and Eddings v. Oklahoma,455 U. S. 104 (1982), which construed the Eighth Amendment to require that the sentencer in a capital case be allowed to consider,

"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 as a basis for a sentence less than death."

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