Morgan v. Illinois, 504 U.S. 719, 3 (1992)

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Cite as: 504 U. S. 719 (1992)

Opinion of the Court

Jack O'Malley, Randall E. Roberts, Sally L. Dilgart, William D. Carroll, and Marie Quinlivan Czech.*

Justice White delivered the opinion of the Court. We decide here whether, during voir dire for a capital offense, a state trial court may, consistent with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, refuse inquiry into whether a potential juror would automatically impose the death penalty upon conviction of the defendant.


The trial of a capital offense in Illinois is conducted in two phases. The defendant must first be convicted of first-degree murder, as defined in Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 38, ¶ 9-1(a) (Supp. 1990). Illinois law uses the same jury that decided guilt to determine whether the death penalty shall be imposed,1 and upon conviction, a separate sentencing hearing commences to determine the existence of aggravating and mitigating factors. ¶ 9-1(d)(1). To be eligible for the death penalty, the jury must find unanimously, ¶ 9-1(g), and beyond a reasonable doubt, ¶ 9-1(f), that the defendant was at least 18 years old at the time of the murder, and that at least 1 of 10 enumerated aggravating factors exists, ¶ 9-1(b). See, e. g., ¶ 9-1(b)(5) (murder for hire or by contract); ¶ 9-1(b)(10) (premeditated murder by preconceived plan). If the jury finds none of the statutory aggravating factors to exist, the defendant is sentenced to a term of imprisonment. ¶ 9-1(g). "If there is a unanimous finding by the jury that one or more

*Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the American Civil Liberties Union et al. by Robert L. Graham, Laura A. Kaster, Harvey Grossman, John A. Powell, Steven Shapiro, and Diann Rust-Tierney; and for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers by Andrea D. Lyon.

1 The defendant may, however, elect to waive sentencing by the jury. Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 38, ¶ 9-1(d)(3) (Supp. 1990). The procedure and standards that guide a sentencing judge, ¶ 9-1(h), are identical to those that guide a jury, ¶ 9-1(g).


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