Lynch v. Arizona

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: May 31, 2016
  • Case #: No. 15–8366
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam
  • Full Text Opinion

Simmons applies even in instances where there is a possibility that the defendant may be eligible for parole due to legislative action or clemency in the future.

Petitioner was convicted in Arizona state court of murder, kidnapping, burglary and armed robbery. During sentencing, Petitioner could be sentenced to death or life without the possibility of parole and the jury was able to considered petitioner's potential for future danger, but the State moved to prohibit Petitioner from informing the jury of his parole ineligibility, the only available alternative to a death sentence, which was granted. Petitioner's first jury was unable to reach verdict and Petitioner's second jury sentenced Petitioner to death. On appeal from Petitioner's trial, the Arizona Supreme Court vacated Petitioner's judgment, because the jury instructions did not appropriately reflect Arizona Law. During Petitioner's second trial, Petitioner raised a Simmons argument, because he was not able to inform the jury of his ineligibility for parole when he faced capital punishment or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole and the prosecution was able to introduce Petitioner's potential for future danger. The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed petitioner’s conviction and rejected his Simmons argument. The Supreme Court did not agree with the Arizona Supreme Court that Petitioner's particular situation was distinguishable from Simmons. The Court held that Simmons did apply and the Due Process Clause entitled Petitioner to inform the jury of his ineligibility for parole. The Court reasoned that the fact that petitioner could have been released through clemency was irrelevant and Simmons still applied and that there is a possibility that the defendant may somehow be eligible for parole through legislative action would render Simmons useless. REVERSED.

Advanced Search