475 U.S. 1036 (1986)

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U.S. Supreme Court

SCHIRO v. INDIANA , 475 U.S. 1036 (1986)

475 U.S. 1036

Thomas N. SCHIRO
No. 85-5972

Supreme Court of the United States

February 24, 1986

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

The petition for writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice MARSHALL, with whom Justice BRENNAN joins, dissenting.

The trial judge in this case rejected a unanimous jury decision that petitioner's life should be spared, and sentenced him to die. Petitioner's allegations, which call into question the reliability of the judge's sentencing determination, further illustrate why a judge should not have the awesome power to reject a jury recommendation of life. Moreover, a serious inadequacy in the Indiana capital-sentencing procedure dramatically distinguishes it from the jury-override procedure that this Court upheld in Spaziano v.

Page 475 U.S. 1036 , 1037

Florida, 468 U.S. 447 (1984). I must dissent from the Court's decision not to consider petitioner's substantial claims.


Thomas N. Schiro was convicted of murder in the course of a rape and, following a hearing on the appropriateness of sentencing him to die, the jury recommended a life sentence. The trial judge, however, rejected the jury's decision and imposed a sentence of death. Upon direct appeal, the Supreme Court of Indiana found that the trial court's findings pertaining to the sentencing did not set out clearly and properly the court's reasons for imposing the death penalty. Schiro v. State, 451 N.E.2d 1047, 1056 ( Schiro I ), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 1003 ( 1983). That court ordered that the trial court make written findings setting out the aggravating circumstance proved beyond a reasonable doubt and the mitigating circumstances, if any, as listed in the state statute. 451 N.E.2d, at 1056.

In response, the trial court specified one aggravating circumstance, that the jury had convicted petitioner of murder in the course of a rape; it then stated that it found no mitigating circumstances, listing and rejecting each of the statutory mitigating circumstances, even though several were suggested by the evidence. With regard to the mitigating factor concerning a defendant's mental or emotional condition and the impairment of his capacity to appreciate the criminality of his acts, the court found as follows:

    "This Court personally observed the Defendant, while the jury was present, making continual rocking motions, which did not stop throughout the trial except when the jury left the Courtroom. In the Court's outer chambers, out of the presence of the jury, in the eight days of trial, the Court frequently observed the Defendant sitting calmly and not rocking. It is apparent to the Court that this may well have influenced and misled the jury in its recommendation."

On the basis of his own suspicions, not subject to evidentiary requirements or tested by cross-examination, the judge decided that a unanimous jury was wrong and that petitioner should die. The Indiana Supreme Court upheld the sentence of death. 479 N.E.2d 556 (1985).

II [475 U.S. 1036 , 1038]

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