Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154, 3 (1994)

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156

SIMMONS v. SOUTH CAROLINA

Opinion of Blackmun, J.

Justice Blackmun announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which Justice Stevens, Justice Souter, and Justice Ginsburg join.

This case presents the question whether the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was violated by the refusal of a state trial court to instruct the jury in the penalty phase of a capital trial that under state law the defendant was ineligible for parole. We hold that where the defendant's future dangerousness is at issue, and state law prohibits the defendant's release on parole, due process requires that the sentencing jury be informed that the defendant is parole ineligible.

I

A

In July 1990, petitioner beat to death an elderly woman, Josie Lamb, in her home in Columbia, South Carolina. The week before petitioner's capital murder trial was scheduled to begin, he pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary and two counts of criminal sexual conduct in connection with two prior assaults on elderly women. Petitioner's guilty pleas resulted in convictions for violent offenses, and those convictions rendered petitioner ineligible for parole if convicted of any subsequent violent-crime offense. S. C. Code Ann. 24-21-640 (Supp. 1993).

Prior to jury selection, the prosecution advised the trial judge that the State "[o]bviously [was] going to ask you to exclude any mention of parole throughout this trial." App. 2. Over defense counsel's objection, the trial court granted the prosecution's motion for an order barring the

nois, Chris Gorman, Attorney General of Kentucky, Richard P. Ieyoub, Attorney General of Louisiana, Joseph P. Mazurek, Attorney General of Montana, Fred DeVesa, Attorney General of New Jersey, Michael E. Easley, Attorney General of North Carolina, Mark Barnett, Attorney General of South Dakota, and Dan Morales, Attorney General of Texas.

William C. Pelster filed a brief for Donna L. Markle et al. as amici curiae.

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