Sumner v. Nevada Dept. of Prisons,
483 U.S. 66 (1987)

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Sumner v. Nevada Dept. of Prisons, 483 U.S. 66 (1987)

Sumner v. Nevada Department of Prisons

No. 86-246

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.

Page 483 U. S. 67

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.