Loving v. United States, 517 U.S. 748 (1996)

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748

OCTOBER TERM, 1995

Syllabus

LOVING v. UNITED STATES

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the armed forces

No. 94-1966. Argued January 9, 1996—Decided June 3, 1996

A general court-martial found petitioner Loving, an Army private, guilty of both premeditated murder and felony murder under Article 118 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), 10 U. S. C. 918(1), (4). Finding three aggravating factors—(1) that the premeditated murder was committed during a robbery, Rule for Courts-Martial (RCM) 1004(c)(7)(B); (2) that Loving acted as the triggerman in the felony murder, RCM 1004(c)(8); and (3) that Loving, having been found guilty of the premeditated murder, had committed a second murder, also proved at his single trial, RCM 1004(c)(7)(J)—the court-martial sentenced Loving to death. The commander who convened the court-martial approved the findings and sentence. The United States Army Court of Military Review and the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces affirmed, rejecting Loving's attack on the promulgation by Executive Order of the aggravating factors in RCM 1004. He contends that the Eighth Amendment and the separation-of-powers doctrine require that Congress, not the President, make the fundamental policy determination respecting the factors that warrant the death penalty.

Held: 1. On the assumption that Furman v. Georgia, 408 U. S. 238, and subsequent cases apply to this crime and sentence, the Constitution requires the aggravating factors that Loving challenges. Under the Eighth Amendment, the military capital sentencing scheme must genuinely narrow the class of persons eligible for the death penalty and must reasonably justify the imposition of a more severe sentence on the accused compared to others found guilty of murder, see, e. g., Lowenfield v. Phelps, 484 U. S. 231, 244. That narrowing is not achieved in the statute. Article 118 authorizes the death penalty for but two of the four types of murder therein specified, premeditated and felony murder, 918(1), (4), whereas intentional murder without premeditation and murder resulting from wanton and dangerous conduct are not punishable by death, 918(2), (3). Moreover, Article 118(4) by its terms permits the death penalty for felony murder even if the accused had no intent to kill and did not do the killing himself. Because the Eighth Amendment does not permit death to be imposed in those circumstances, Enmund v. Florida, 458 U. S. 782, 801, additional aggravating

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