Sumner v. Nevada Dept. of Prisons
483 U.S. 66 (1987)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Sumner v. Nevada Dept. of Prisons, 483 U.S. 66 (1987)

Sumner v. Nevada Department of Prisons

No. 86-246

Argued April 20, 1987

Decided June 22, 1987

483 U.S. 66

Syllabus

While serving a life sentence without possibility of parole upon a first-degree murder conviction, respondent was convicted of the capital murder of a fellow prisoner, and sentenced to death under a Nevada statute mandating the death penalty in these circumstances. The State Supreme Court affirmed respondent's conviction and death sentence. The Federal District Court, in a habeas corpus proceeding, vacated the death sentence, holding that the mandatory capital punishment statute violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held:

1. Under the individualized capital sentencing doctrine, it is constitutionally required that the sentencing authority consider, as a mitigating factor, any aspect of the defendant's character or record and any of the circumstances of the particular offense. Pp. 483 U. S. 70-76.

2. A statute that mandates the death penalty for a prison inmate who is convicted of murder while serving a life sentence without possibility of parole violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp. 483 U. S. 77-85.

791 F.2d 788, affirmed.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, POWELL, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and SCALIA, J., joined, post p. 483 U. S. 86.

Page 483 U. S. 67

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