Wong v. Belmontes
Annotate this Case
558 U.S. ___ (2009)
- Concurrence (John Paul Stevens) |
- Per Curiam
558 U. S. ____ (2009)
WONG V. BELMONTES
558 U. S. ____ (2009)
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
ROBERT WONG, WARDEN v. FERNANDO BELMONTES, Jr.
on petition for writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit
No. 08–1263. Decided November 16, 2009
Justice Stevens, concurring.
When Fernando Belmontes was sentenced to death in 1982, California Penal Code §190.3(k)*
The testimony adduced at Belmontes’ sentencing hearing described his religious conversion and his positive contributions to a youth rehabilitation program. Neither his own testimony, nor that of the two ministers and the other witnesses who testified on his behalf, made any attempt to extenuate the severity of his crime. Their testimony did, however, afford the jury a principled basis for imposing a sentence other than death. See Ayers, 549 U. S., at 29–31 (Stevens, J., dissenting). A review of the entire record, especially the colloquy between six jurors and the trial judge, makes it clear to me that “the jury believed that the law forbade it from giving that evidence any weight at all.” Id., at 36–39. I therefore remain convinced that in its initial review of this case, the Court of Appeals correctly set aside Belmontes’ death sentence.
The narrow question that is now before us is whether the additional mitigating evidence that trial counsel failed to uncover would have persuaded the jury to return a different verdict. The evidence trial counsel might have presented hardly matters, however, because in my view the conscientious jurors’ mistaken understanding of the law would have prevented them from giving that additional evidence “any weight at all,” id., at 39, let alone controlling weight. Despite my strong disagreement with the Court’s decision to review this case once again, I nevertheless agree with the Court’s conclusion that trial counsel’s failure to present additional mitigating evidence probably did not affect the outcome of the trial.
* Cal. Penal Code Ann. §190.3(k) (West 1988).