Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154, 11 (1994)

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Opinion of Blackmun, J.

ant's future nondangerousness to the public than the fact that he never will be released on parole. The trial court's refusal to apprise the jury of information so crucial to its sentencing determination, particularly when the prosecution alluded to the defendant's future dangerousness in its argument to the jury, cannot be reconciled with our well-established precedents interpreting the Due Process Clause.


In Skipper v. South Carolina, 476 U. S. 1 (1986), this Court held that a defendant was denied due process by the refusal of the state trial court to admit evidence of the defendant's good behavior in prison in the penalty phase of his capital trial. Although the majority opinion stressed that the defendant's good behavior in prison was "relevant evidence in mitigation of punishment," and thus admissible under the Eighth Amendment, id., at 4, citing Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U. S., at 604 (plurality opinion), the Skipper opinion expressly noted that the Court's conclusion also was compelled by the Due Process Clause. The Court explained that where the prosecution relies on a prediction of future dangerousness in requesting the death penalty, elemental due process principles operate to require admission of the defendant's relevant evidence in rebuttal. 476 U. S., at 5, n. 1. See also id., at 9 (Powell, J., opinion concurring in judgment) ("[B]ecause petitioner was not allowed to rebut evidence and argument used against him," the defendant clearly was denied due process).

The Court reached a similar conclusion in Gardner v. Florida, 430 U. S. 349 (1977). In that case, a defendant was sentenced to death on the basis of a presentence report which was not made available to him and which he therefore could not rebut. A plurality of the Court explained that sending a man to his death "on the basis of information which he had no opportunity to deny or explain" violated fundamental notions of due process. Id., at 362. The principle an-

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