November 09, 2016 Practice Points

Supreme Court Overrules Oklahoma Death Sentence

The Court ruled that the Oklahoma appeals court had erred in its interpretation of the Supreme Court’s holding in Payne v. Tennessee regarding “characterizations and opinions.”

By Sanford Hausler

On October 11, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a per curiam decision, ruled that the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals had erred in holding that the Supreme Court, in Payne v. Tennessee, had implicitly overruled that portion of the Supreme Court’s decision in Booth v. Maryland regarding characterizations of the defendants and opinions of the sentence. In Bosse v. Oklahoma, a death-penalty case, the Oklahoma court had allowed relatives of the victim to express their opinions on an appropriate sentence. The relatives all testified that the death penalty would be appropriate, and the jury agreed. The Supreme Court noted that the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals was bound by Boothe until the Court reconsiders the ban on characterizations and opinions from a victim’s family members about the crime, the defendant, and the appropriate sentence, which had not been done in Payne.

Sanford Hausler is with Cox Padmore Skolnik & Shakarchy in New York, New York.

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