493 U.S. 910 (1989)

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U.S. Supreme Court

SCHIRO v. INDIANA , 493 U.S. 910 (1989)

493 U.S. 910

Thomas A. SCHIRO, petitioner,
INDIANA. No. 89-5327.

Supreme Court of the United States

October 10, 1989

Petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of Indiana.


Opinion of Justice STEVENS respecting the denial of the petition for writ of certiorari.

There is a critical difference between a judgment of affirmance and an order denying a petition for a writ of certiorari. The former determines the rights of the parties; the latter expresses no opinion on the merits of the case. [Footnote 1] Partly for that reason, and

Page 493 U.S. 910 , 911

partly because our certiorari docket is so crowded, the Court does not explain its reasons for entering such orders. There is, accordingly, a danger that an individual Justice's statement of his or her views respecting the denial of certiorari may be misleading or counterproductive. 2 Nevertheless, I am persuaded that a brief comment on this troublesome and unusual case is appropriate.

This is a capital case. It is one of 63 such cases that were considered at our conference during the week of September 25, 1989. Despite the contrary views that were once expressed,3 it is neither feasible nor wise for this Court to review the merits of every capital case in which the petitioner asks us to review the decision of a State's highest court. In many of these cases review of the federal constitutional issues is more effectively administered in federal habeas corpus proceedings. [Footnote 4] The burdens associated with the delay in the date of execution are more than offset by the benefit of complete and adequate review of the decision to impose a death sentence.

In this case, despite the fact that petitioner was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to death in 1981, the Federal District Court has not yet had an opportunity to review his federal constitutional claims. 5 The Indiana Supreme Court has, however, considered the validity of the death sentence on four different occasions. First, while the case was pending on direct review, the court unanimously granted the State's petition to remand the case to the trial judge to enable him to make the findings of fact that the Indiana statute requires to support a death sentence. Sec- [493 U.S. 910 , 912]

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