SMITH v. DUGGER
Annotate this Case
494 U.S. 1047 (1990)
U.S. Supreme Court
SMITH v. DUGGER , 494 U.S. 1047 (1990)
494 U.S. 1047
Frank SMITH, petitioner,
Richard L. DUGGER, Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections, et al. No. 89-6347.
Supreme Court of the United States
March 19, 1990
The petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
Justice MARSHALL, with whom Justice BRENNAN joins, dissenting.
In Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782, 797, 3376, 73 L. Ed.2d 1140 (1982), we held that imposing a death sentence on a defendant " who does not himself kill, attempt to kill, or intend that a killing take place" violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments' prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. In Cabana v. Bullock, 474 U.S. 376, 390-391, 699-700 (1986), the Court reaffirmed and expanded upon Enmund, holding that the federal courts could not make the determination that a defendant met one of the Enmund criteria on their review of state-court judgments. Rather, we held that "the State's judicial process leading to the imposition of the death penalty must at some point provide for a finding of that factual predicate." 474 U.S., at 390-391. In Tison v. Arizona, 481 U.S. 137, 158, 107 S. Ct. 1676, 1688 (1987), this Court held that a showing of both reckless indifference to human life and major participation in a felony would be sufficient to satisfy Enmund. The Court refused to make those findings itself, however, instead remanding to the state courts for a determination whether those factors were present. 481 U.S., at 158.
In this case, the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit found that Enmund, Cabana, and Tison were satisfied solely on the basis of the Florida Supreme Court's determination that there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could have found that
defendant had the intent to kill. In refusing to review the decision below, this Court sanctions a grave departure from our precedents by a panel of a court with a major role in the administration of this Nation's death penalty law. Accordingly, I dissent.
Respondent does not dispute the basic rule that a State may not sentence to death a defendant "who does not himself kill, attempt to kill, or intend that a killing take place," Enmund, supra, 458 U.S., at 797, unless that defendant was a major participant in a felony and exhibited reckless indifference to human life, Tison, supra, 481 U.S., at 158. Nor does respondent suggest that a federal court may make the required finding. Instead, the issue in this case is whether a state court's conclusion that "there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could have found [Smith] guilty of premeditated murder ," Smith v. State, 424 So.2d 726, 733 (1983), constitutes the culpability finding required by our cases.
The entirety of the Eleventh Circuit's reasoning on this point is that "[i]mplicit in [the Florida Supreme Court's sufficiency] finding is the conclusion that Smith had the intent to kill." 840 F.2d 787, 793 ( 1988). Simply asserting a conclusion is hardly sufficient to justify it, especially where, as here, the conclusion is so plainly far-fetched. The Florida court's finding that the evidence was sufficient for Smith's jury to find him guilty of premeditated murder is nothing more than a finding that reasonable people could have found that verdict justified; it is emphatically not a finding that this jury did determine that Smith's acts were premeditated. Indeed, the Cabana Court rejected as insufficient a state court's statement far more conclusive than the one here. There, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that " '[t]he evidence [was] overwhelming that [defendant] was an active participant in the assault and homicide.' " Cabana, 474 U.S., at 389. Although this finding was " sufficient to make [the defendant] liable for the murder and deserving of the death penalty in light of Mississippi law," it did not satisfy the Eighth Amendment. Ibid.
That the Florida court did not make the required finding is particularly apparent from an examination of its opinion as a whole. In response to an unrelated guilt-phase point of error, the court found that Smith could have been found guilty and sentenced to death on either of two theories, one of which was the felony-murder doctrine. 424 So.2d, at 731 . "Under this theory the jury would not have needed to conclude that [ Smith] had the req- [494 U.S. 1047 , 1049]