Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154, 14 (1994)

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Cite as: 512 U. S. 154 (1994)

Opinion of Blackmun, J.

vide for life imprisonment without parole as an alternative to capital punishment inform the sentencing authority of the defendant's parole ineligibility.7 The few States that do not provide capital sentencing juries with any information regarding parole ineligibility seem to rely, as South Carolina

7 At present, there are 26 States that both employ juries in capital sentencing and provide for life imprisonment without parole as an alternative to capital punishment. In 17 of these, the jury expressly is informed of the defendant's ineligibility for parole. Nine States simply identify the jury's sentencing alternatives as death and life without parole. See Ala. Code 13A-5-46(e) (1982); Ark. Code Ann. 5-4-603(b) (1993); Cal. Penal Code Ann. 190.3 (West 1988); Conn. Gen. Stat. 53a-46a(f) (1985); Del. Code Ann., Tit. 11, 4209(a) (1987); La. Code Crim. Proc. Ann., Art. 905.6 (West Supp. 1994); Mo. Rev. Stat. 565.030.4 (Supp. 1993); N. H. Rev. Stat. Ann. 630:5 (Supp. 1992); Wash. Rev. Code 10.95.030 (1994). Eight States allow the jury to specify whether the defendant should or should not be eligible for parole. See Ga. Code Ann. 17-10-31.1(a) (Supp. 1993); Ind. Code 35-50-2-9 (Supp. 1993); Md. Ann. Code, Art. 27, 413(c)(3) (Supp. 1993); Nev. Rev. Stat. 175.554(2)(c)(2) (1993); Okla. Stat. Ann. Tit. 21, 701.10(A) (Supp. 1993-1994); Ore. Rev. Stat. 163.105 (1991); Tenn. Code Ann. 39-13-204(a)-(f)(2) (Supp. 1993); Utah Code Ann. 76-3- 207(4) (Supp. 1993).

In three States, statutory or decisional law requires that the sentencing jury be instructed, where accurate, that the defendant will be ineligible for parole. See Colo. Rev. Stat. 16-11-103(1)(b) (Supp. 1993); People v. Gacho, 122 Ill. 2d 221, 262, 522 N. E. 2d 1146, 1166 (1988); Turner v. State, 573 So. 2d 657, 675 (Miss. 1990), cert. denied, 500 U. S. 910 (1991).

Three States have not considered the question whether jurors should be instructed that the defendant is ineligible for parole under state law. See Fla. Stat. Ann. 775.0823(1) (Supp. 1994); S. D. Codified Laws 24- 15-4 (1988); Wyo. Stat. 6-2-101(b), 7-13-402(a) (1993). The Florida Supreme Court, however, has approved for publication pattern jury instructions that inform capital sentencing juries of the no-parole feature of Fla. Stat. Ann. 775.0823(1). See Standard Jury Instructions—Criminal Cases No. 92-1, 603 So. 2d 1175, 1205 (Fla. 1992).

Finally, there are four States in which the capital sentencing decision is made by the trial judge alone or by a sentencing panel of judges. Thus, in these States, as well, the sentencing authority is fully aware of the precise parole status of life-sentenced murderers. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. 13-703(B) (Supp. 1993); Idaho Code 19-2515(d) (1987); Mont. Code Ann. 46-18-301 (1993); Neb. Rev. Stat. 29-2520 (1989).

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