ENGLE v. FLORIDA
Annotate this Case
485 U.S. 924 (1988)
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U.S. Supreme Court
ENGLE v. FLORIDA , 485 U.S. 924 (1988)
485 U.S. 924
Gregory Scott ENGLE
Supreme Court of the United States
February 29, 1988
On petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Florida.
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, see Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 231-241, 2973-2977 (1976) (MARSHALL, J., dissenting), I would grant the petition for certiorari and vacate petitioner's death sentence.
I [ Engle v. Florida 485 U.S. 924 (1988) ][924-Continued.]
Even if I did not hold this view, I would grant the petition for certiorari to consider petitioner's contention that the Florida Supreme Court is applying the review standard of Tedder v. State, 322 So.2d 908, 910 (1975) (per curiam ), in a manner that has denigrated the role of legitimate mitigating circumstances in Florida's sentencing scheme and that has led to the arbitrary infliction of the death penalty. Petitioner's sentencing jury recommended life imprisonment, but the trial judge overrode the jury's recommendation and imposed the death sentence. Under Florida's unusual system of capital sentencing, the trial judge is given the power to overturn a sentencing jury's rejection of the death penalty. In upholding Florida's sentencing system against various constitutional challenges, this Court repeatedly has relied on the Florida rule, announced in Tedder, that "[i]n order to sustain a sentence of death following a jury's recommendation of life, the facts suggesting a sentence of death should be so clear and convincing that virtually no reasonable person could differ," ibid. See Spaziano v. Florida, 468 U.S. 447, 465- 466, 3164-3166 (1984); Barclay v. Florida, 463 U.S. 939, 955-956, 958, 3427-3429 ( 1983) (REHNQUIST, J., joined by BURGER, C.J., and WHITE and O'CONNOR, JJ .); Proffitt v. Florida, 428 U.S. 242, 249, 2965d 913 (1976) (opinion of Stewart, Powell, and STEVENS, JJ.). The trial judge in this case failed even to consider the reasonableness of the jury's recommendation and refused to recognize petitioner's lesser role in the crime as a valid mitigating circumstance. The Florida Supreme Court nonetheless affirmed the override of the jury's recommendation, arguing that it would be
"unreasonable . . . to conclude that [petitioner] played no part in the brutal slaying." 510 So.2d 881, 884 (1987) (per curiam ). This reasoning evinces a cramped view of mitigating circumstances regarding evidence of petitioner's lesser role that is contrary to the constitutional principles recognized in Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586 ( 1978), and Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104 ( 1982). In addition, a review of this and other cases convinces me that the Florida Supreme Court has embraced conflicting views of whether such mitigating evidence may justify the jury's recommendation of life imprisonment. The court's inconsistent application of the Tedder standard in felony-murder cases has led to the arbitrary imposition of the death penalty.
Petitioner was charged, along with Rufus Stevens, with the murder of Eleanor Tolin, a cashier at the Majik Market in Jacksonville, Florida. [Footnote 1] Evidence presented by the State at trial indicated that Stevens had a leadership role and planned the robbery of the market, whereas petitioner was the follower in the scheme. Evidence also indicated that Stevens was the actual killer. During guilt-phase deliberations, the jurors twice asked the judge whether they had "to be convinced the defendant personally killed the victim to render a [verdict] of murder in the first degree." Pet. for Cert. 5.2 The penalty phase of the trial began immediately after the jury returned the guilty verdict. No additional evidence was presented. Counsel presented closing arguments and the jury was instructed to base its penalty recommendation on the evidence presented during the guilt phase. In his summation to the jury prior to the sentencing phase, the prosecutor stated:
- "You're concerned whether he had to have actually thrust the knife on her. I know you were concerned about that. . . . But if you believe, if you believe that Rufus Stevens killed that girl for the purpose of not being identified, that he [485 U.S. 924 , 926]