459 U.S. 884 (1982)

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U.S. Supreme Court

NEWLON v. MISSOURI , 459 U.S. 884 (1982)

459 U.S. 884

Rayfield NEWLON, petitioner,
No. 81-6660

Supreme Court of the United States

October 4, 1982

On petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the State of Missouri.

The petition for writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice MARSHALL, with whom Justice BRENNAN joins, dissenting from denial of certiorari.

Adhering to my view that the death penalty is under all circumstances cruel and usual punishment forbidden by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, I would vacate the judgment of the Supreme Court of Missouri, insofar as it left undisturbed the death sentence imposed in this case. However, even if I believed that the death penalty could constitutionally be imposed under certain circumstances, I would grant certiorari and vacate the death sentence imposed here.

On Louis County, Mo., for capital murder. The evidence at trial was that Newlon, along with two others, Franz Williams and Walter West, agreed to rob a "convenience" store. Petitioner and Williams entered the store while West parked the car in front of the building. During the attempted robbery, the proprietor of the store, Mansfield Dave, was shot twice with a sawed-off shotgun. Newlon and Williams then ran from the store. Dave died from the gunshot wounds.

There was disputed testimony at trial as to whether Newlon or Williams fired the shots. West testified that petitioner had done the shooting, though there was considerable question whether West could possibly have seen what was happening inside the store from his position across the street. In a videotaped statement made prior to trial, Newlon said that he had gone to the back of the store to get a soda and to divert Dave's attention, and that while he was there, Williams had fired the shots. Newlon testified at trial and again denied responsibility for the shooting.

Page 459 U.S. 884 , 885

In his argument on summation, the prosecutor stressed that even if Newlon did not fire the shots, he was still guilty of capital murder as an accomplice of Williams. The trial judge instructed the jury as follows with respect to the elements of capital murder:

"If you find and believe from the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt:

"First, that on or about April 24, 1978, in the County of St. Louis, State of Missouri, the defendant or another caused the death of Mansfield Dave by shooting him, and

"Second, that the defendant or another intended to take the life of Mansfield Dave, and

"Third, that the defendant or another knew that they were practically certain to cause the death of Mansfield Dave, and

"Fourth, that the defendant or another considered taking the life of Mansfield Dave and reflected upon this matter coolly and fully before doing so, and

"Fifth, that the defendant acted either alone or knowingly and with common purpose together with another in the conduct referred to in the above paragraphs, then you will find the defendant guilty of capital murder." (Emphasis added.)

The jury returned a guilty verdict.

A separate sentencing hearing was then held before the same jury. Under Missouri law the death penalty may be imposed for capital murder if the trier of fact finds aggravating circumstances that warrant the imposition of death and the absence of sufficient countervailing mitigating circumstances. 565.012, RSMo 1978. In this case the jury was instructed to consider two aggravating circumstances alleged by the prosecution. First, it was instructed to decide whether petitioner murdered Mansfield Dave for the purpose of receiving money. Second, it was instructed to decide whether the murder involved "depravity of mind and ... as a result thereof ... was outrageously or wantonly [459 U.S. 884 , 886]

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