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January 11, 2006

Delaware Supreme Court finds Ring problem in death sentence

Continuing a day with lots of capital coverage (a SCOTUS decision and argument, policy and clemency debates), I see thanks to How Appealing that the Delaware Supreme Court has reversed a death sentence because of a Ring problem.  This press account provides background on the ruling in Capano v. Delaware, No. 131, 2005 (Del. Jan. 11, 2006) (available here).  Here's a key passage from the introduction of the majority opinion:

We affirm the judgment of the Superior Court, holding that Capano has failed to establish his ineffective assistance of counsel claims.  We reject Capano's claim that the 1991 statute is unconstitutional, but find a constitutional flaw in its application to him under the new rule announced by the United States Supreme Court in Ring.  A factual determination of eligibility for the death penalty must be found by a jury because under Ring, eligibility based upon the existence of a statutory aggravating circumstance is no longer merely a sentencing factor but, rather, is an element of the greater offense of capital murder.  In Delaware, the elements of any criminal offense, including the greater offense of capital murder, must be found by a unanimous jury.  Because Capano's eligibility for the death penalty was decided by the sentencing judge without a unanimous jury finding of a statutory aggravating circumstance, we must vacate his death sentence.  This constitutional flaw in the penalty phase does not bar a new penalty hearing under a procedure that comports with constitutional requirements.  Accordingly, we remand this matter for a new penalty hearing consistent with Ring and the death penalty statute that was enacted in response to the Ring decision.

January 11, 2006 at 01:22 PM | Permalink


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There are so many "Ring" complications accross the board. For example in Hawaii, the paroling authority decides aggravating and other factors when setting a minimum term that often times exceeds a persons natural life span. Here, a panel, not a court or jury decides if the aggravating factors support a much greater sentence. HRS state: that under it's sentencing law everyone shall be entitled to parole. This is not possible if a person is given a 100 year minimum term under current application of HPA Guidelines

Posted by: Monte Boyd | Aug 18, 2009 1:35:06 AM

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