Sumner v. Nevada Dept. of Prisons
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483 U.S. 66 (1987)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Sumner v. Nevada Dept. of Prisons, 483 U.S. 66 (1987)
Sumner v. Nevada Department of Prisons
Argued April 20, 1987
Decided June 22, 1987
483 U.S. 66
While serving a life sentence without possibility of parole upon a first-degree murder conviction, respondent was convicted of the capital murder of a fellow prisoner, and sentenced to death under a Nevada statute mandating the death penalty in these circumstances. The State Supreme Court affirmed respondent's conviction and death sentence. The Federal District Court, in a habeas corpus proceeding, vacated the death sentence, holding that the mandatory capital punishment statute violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court of Appeals affirmed.
1. Under the individualized capital sentencing doctrine, it is constitutionally required that the sentencing authority consider, as a mitigating factor, any aspect of the defendant's character or record and any of the circumstances of the particular offense. Pp. 483 U. S. 70-76.
2. A statute that mandates the death penalty for a prison inmate who is convicted of murder while serving a life sentence without possibility of parole violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp. 483 U. S. 77-85.
791 F.2d 788, affirmed.
BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, POWELL, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and SCALIA, J., joined, post p. 483 U. S. 86.