Kelly v. South Carolina, 534 U.S. 246, 8 (2002)

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Cite as: 534 U. S. 246 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

was on the facts: the evidence and argument cited by the state court are flatly at odds with the view that "future dangerousness was not an issue in this case." 343 S. C., at 363, 540 S. E. 2d, at 857.

The court acknowledged the prosecutor's "[e]vidence that Kelly took part in escape attempts and carried a shank," id., at 362, 540 S. E. 2d, at 857, and that "he had been caught carrying a weapon and planning or participating in escape attempts," ibid. The court concluded, however, that this evidence was not the sort contemplated by Simmons, that is, evidence demonstrating future danger " 'if released from prison.' " 343 S. C., at 362, n. 8, 540 S. E. 2d, at 857, n. 8 (quoting Simmons, supra, at 163) (emphasis added by state court). The court saw the evidence as going only to Kelly's likely behavior in prison, or to his proclivity to escape from it; the state court said that Kelly was allowed to rebut this evidence of his inability to adapt to prison life, but that explaining parole ineligibility would do nothing to rebut evidence that Kelly was an escape risk. 343 S. C., at 362-363, 540 S. E. 2d, at 857.

Even if we confine the evidentiary consideration to the evidence discussed by the State Supreme Court, the court's conclusion cannot be accepted. To the extent that it thought that "[e]vidence that Kelly took part in escape attempts and carried a shank . . . is not the type of future dangerousness evidence contemplated by Simmons," id., at 362, 540 S. E. 2d, at 857, it overlooked that evidence of violent behavior in prison can raise a strong implication of "generalized . . . future dangerousness." Simmons, supra, at 171. (And, of course, the state court's reasoning says nothing about the evidence of the crime, or of Kelly's sadism generally, and his mercurial thirst for vengeance.) A jury hearing evidence of a defendant's demonstrated propensity for violence reasonably will conclude that he presents a risk of violent behavior,


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