484 U.S. 935 (1987)

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U.S. Supreme Court

WILLIAMS v. LYNAUGH , 484 U.S. 935 (1987)

484 U.S. 935

James Carol WILLIAMS
James A. LYNAUGH, Director, Texas Department of Corrections.
No. 87-5222

Supreme Court of the United States

November 2, 1987

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice MARSHALL, with whom Justice BRENNAN joins, 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, 231-241, 2973- 2977 (1976) (MARSHALL, J., dissenting), I would grant the petition for writ of certiorari. Even if I did not hold this view, I would grant the petition in order to resolve the question whether the State may, consistent with the Eighth and Fourteenth Amend-

Page 484 U.S. 935 , 936

ments, introduce evidence of unadjudicated criminal conduct at the punishment phase of a capital trial. This claim presents a serious constitutional issue that has provoked a number of conflicting court decisions nationwide. The petition also presents a second question worthy of our review, namely, whether a State violates the Equal Protection Clause when it permits the sentencer to consider evidence of unadjudicated offenses in capital cases but not in noncapital cases.


Petitioner James Williams was sentenced to death under a Texas capital punishment statute that requires the jury to determine beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, if permitted to live, would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society. See Tex.Crim.Proc.Code.Ann., Art. 37.071(b)(2) (Vernon Supp. 1986-1987). To prove this circumstance, the State relied in large part on eyewitness testimony that petitioner had participated in a restaurant robbery 10 days before the murder. Petitioner never had been charged with, much less convicted of, this crime. The court did not caution the jury that it had to find petitioner had committed the crime by any particular standard of proof before considering the evidence in its calculation of future dangerousness. Indeed, the jury was encouraged not to do so by the State's attorney, who stated:

    "You don't have to go back there and find him guilty of [the robbery ]. You don't have to write a verdict for that. This is here to let you see what he did ten days prior." Pet. for Cert. at 4.

In his federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus, petitioner argued that Texas' sentencing scheme violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments because it permits the introduction of evidence of unadjudicated criminal conduct at the sentencing hearing of a capital trial. Williams also contended, in the alternative, that Texas' sentencing scheme violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because the State permits the introduction of unadjudicated offenses in capital-sentencing trials while forbidding the use of such evidence in noncapital-sentencing proceedings, see Jones v. State, 479 S.W. 2d 307 (Tex.Crim.App.1972). The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected both claims. 814 F.2d 205 (1987). [484 U.S. 935 , 937]

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