469 U.S. 894 (1984)

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U.S. Supreme Court

EDDMONDS v. ILLINOIS , 469 U.S. 894 (1984)

469 U.S. 894

No. 83-6832

Supreme Court of the United States

October 9, 1984

Rehearing Denied Dec. 3, 1984.

See 469 U.S. 1077.

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

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Page 469 U.S. 894 , 895

Justice MARSHALL, with whom Justice BRENNAN joins, dissenting.

I would grant certiorari to consider the constitutionality of the Illinois death penalty statute, which vests in the prosecutor the unlimited and unguided discretion to trigger death sentencing proceedings. Under the statute, a death sentencing proceeding will follow a conviction for a crime punishable by death only "[w]here requested by the State." Ill.Rev.Stat., ch. 38, 9-1(d) (Supp.1984). If the prosecutor chooses not to request such a proceeding, the defendant cannot be sentenced to death.

Yet the prosecutor's decision whether to make this request is not guided by any legislative standard. Thus, the Illinois scheme introduces unbridled discretion at a stage at which "discretion must be suitably directed and limited so as to minimize the risk of wholly arbitrary and capricious action." Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 189, 2932 (1976) (joint opinion announcing the judgment of the Court). Accordingly, a substantial question is presented as to the constitutionality of the statute.


At the outset, it is important to state clearly what this case is not about. It is not about prosecutorial discretion in an area traditionally committed to such discretion. The discretion at issue here is fundamentally different from the discretion a prosecutor exercises in determining whether to seek an indictment for an offense punishable by death, or to accept a plea of guilty to a lesser included offense. What is at stake, instead, is standardless discretion at the postconviction phase of capital cases-the phase in which this Court has repeatedly emphasized that discretion must be carefully guided.

The joint opinion announcing the Court's judgment in Gregg v. Georgia, supra, carefully distinguishes preconviction discretion-which it deems permissible-from postconviction discretion-which, it states, can render a scheme unconstitutional. That opinion makes clear that unguided discretion at the latter stage is impermissible: "[T]he decision to impose the death sentence on a specific individual who ha[s] been convicted of a capital offense" must be guided by standards and cannot be imposed on a "capriciously selected group of offenders." Id., at 199 (Stewart, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ.). [469 U.S. 894 , 896]

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