PATTERSON v. SOUTH CAROLINA
Annotate this Case
471 U.S. 1036 (1985)
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U.S. Supreme Court
PATTERSON v. SOUTH CAROLINA , 471 U.S. 1036 (1985)
471 U.S. 1036
Wardell PATTERSON, Jr., petitioner,
Paul F. KOON, petitioner,
Supreme Court of the United States
April 15, 1985
On petitions for writs of certiorari to the Supreme Court of South Carolina.
The petitions for writs of certiorari are denied.
Justice MARSHALL, with whom Justice BRENNAN joins, dissenting.
In spite of this Court's repeated declarations that a capital " 'sentencer . . . not be precluded from considering, as a mitigating factor, any aspect of a defendant's character . . . that the
defendant proffers as a basis for a sentence less than death,' " Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104, 110, 874 (1982) ( quoting Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586, 604, 2964d 973 (1978)), the South Carolina Supreme Court has determined that evidence of a capital defendant's likely nondangerousness within a prison environment is legally irrelevant to the capital sentencer's choice between death or life in prison. In these cases, the petitioners were sentenced to death. They had offered such evidence in mitigation of death but were denied the opportunity of submitting the evidence to their sentencing juries.
The death sentences in these cases were imposed in glaring violation of two lines of this Court's capital sentencing jurisprudence. First, and most obviously, the sentences are contrary to the Lockett-Eddings line of authority, which makes unmistakably clear that it is for the sentencer to determine the weight to be given to proffered evidence of mitigation. Second, they are equally in conflict with those decisions of this Court that make equally clear that the question of a capital defendant's future dangerousness is a legitimate penological concern relevant to a capital sentencing hearing. See California v. Ramos, 463 U.S. 992, 1001-1003, 3453-3454 (1983); Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U.S. 880, 896-905, 3396-3401 (1983); Jurek v. Texas, 428 U.S. 262, 274-276, 2957-2958 ( 1976).
While this latter group of cases affirmed the penological relevance of future dangerousness in contexts in which the State urged it as a factor in aggravation, the hitherto relevant factor of future dangerousness cannot become suddenly and cruelly "irrelevant" as a matter of law when a defendant wishes to assert its absence as a factor in mitigation. As was declared in a precursor to Lockett and Eddings, "a jury must be allowed to consider on the basis of all relevant evidence not only why a death sentence should be imposed, but also why it should not be imposed." Jurek v. Texas, supra, at 271. Rather than allow Lockett and Eddings to be eroded through such a cruelly inequitable view of relevance, I would grant these petitions. [Footnote 1] [471 U.S. 1036 , 1038]