469 U.S. 908 (1984)

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Case

U.S. Supreme Court

WAYE v. MORRIS , 469 U.S. 908 (1984)

469 U.S. 908

Alton WAYE
Edward C. MORRIS, Superintendent, Mecklenburg Correctional Center
No. 84-5303

Supreme Court of the United States

October 9, 1984

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

The petition for a 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, 2950, 49 L. Ed.2d 859 (1976), I would grant certiorari and vacate the death sentence in this case.

Justice MARSHALL, dissenting.


In state habeas corpus proceedings, petitioner argued that he was denied effective assistance of trial counsel as evidenced by that counsel's failure to object to an instruction that was inconsistent with the decision this Court announced, one year after petitioner's trial, in Sandstrom v. Montana, 442 U.S. 510 (1979). Petitioner's sole defense at his capital trial for murder was lack of premeditation. The evidence at trial showed that petitioner had consumed a number of beers on the evening of the crime and that, immediately after killing the victim, he telephoned police to report that he "had killed somebody." Petitioner accompanied sheriff's

Page 469 U.S. 908 , 909

deputies to the victim's house, where he showed them the body. Petitioner was convicted of capital murder on April 7, 1978, and sentenced to death.

The instruction at issue, evidently taken from the Virginia form book of jury instructions, was as follows:

    "The Court instructs the jury that a man is presumed to intend that which he does, or which is the immediate or necessary consequences [ sic] of his act."

As the State now concedes, there is no doubt that this instruction violates the Constitution, for in Sandstrom we held that a virtually identical instruction violated due process and the principles against burden shifting we had set forth in Mullaney v. Wilbur, 421 U.S. 684, 95 S. Ct. 1881 (1975), and Patterson v. New York, 432 U.S. 197 (1977). Sandstrom, however, was decided by this Court on June 18, 1979, a little over a year after petitioner's trial . The question presented by this petition is thus whether the failure of petitioner's counsel, in a capital case in which premeditation was the only issue, to make the very same objection that Sandstrom's trial counsel had made several years earlier indicates that petitioner was denied his Sixth Amendment right to effective counsel.

This question presents the Court with an important opportunity to give content to the generalized standards for constitutionally effective counsel announced last Term in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). With respect to the prejudice prong of Strickland, the fact that the Court has already seen fit to grant a petition for certiorari on the question whether Sandstrom error can ever be harmless indicates that the prejudice issue is worthy of the Court's attention. Franklin v. Francis, 720 F.2d 1206 (CA11 1983) and 723 F.2d 770, cert. granted, 467 U.S. 1225 (1984); 1 see also Connecticut v. Johnson, 460 U.S. 73 (1983) (four-Justice plurality holding that Sandstrom error is never harmless). And with respect to the ineffectiveness component of Strickland -the requirement that counsel's performance not fall below the " range of competence demanded of attorneys in criminal cases," Strickland, supra, 466 U.S. at 687, 104 S.Ct. at 2064-petitioner has marshaled a strong case. [469 U.S. 908 , 910]

Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.