Johnson v. Texas, 509 U.S. 350 (1993)

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certiorari to the court of criminal appeals of texas

No. 92-5653. Argued April 26, 1993—Decided June 24, 1993

A jury found petitioner Johnson guilty of capital murder for a crime he committed when he was 19 years old. In conformity with the Texas capital sentencing statute then in effect, the trial court instructed the jury during the trial's penalty phase to answer two special issues: (1) whether Johnson's conduct was committed deliberately and with the reasonable expectation that death would result, and (2) whether there was a probability that he would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society. The jury was also instructed, inter alia, that in determining each of these issues, it could take into consideration all the evidence submitted to it, whether aggravating or mitigating, in either phase of the trial. A unanimous jury answered yes to both special issues, and the trial court sentenced Johnson to death, as required by law. Shortly after the State Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence, this Court issued Penry v. Lynaugh, 492 U. S. 302. In denying Johnson's motion for rehearing, the state appellate court rejected his contentions that the special issues did not allow his jury to give adequate mitigating effect to evidence of his youth and that Penry required a separate instruction on the question.

Held: The Texas procedures as applied in this case were consistent with the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments under this Court's precedents. Pp. 359-373. (a) A review of the Court's relevant decisions demonstrates the constitutional requirements regarding consideration of mitigating circumstances by sentencers in capital cases. Although the sentencer cannot be precluded from considering, as a mitigating factor, any aspect of the defendant's character or record and any of the circumstances of the particular offense that the defendant proffers as a basis for a sentence less than death, see, e. g., Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U. S. 586, 604 (plurality opinion); Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U. S. 104, States are free to structure and shape consideration of mitigating evidence in an effort to achieve a more rational and equitable administration of the death penalty, see, e. g., Boyde v. California, 494 U. S. 370, 377. Pp. 359-362. (b) The Texas law under which Johnson was sentenced has been the principal concern of a series of opinions in this Court. Although, in Jurek v. Texas, 428 U. S. 262, 276, 277, six Justices agreed that, as a

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