Bosse v. Oklahoma

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: October 11, 2016
  • Case #: 15-9173
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam. Thomas, J., filed a concurring opinion which Alito, J., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

Payne v. Tennessee did not implicitly overrule Booth v. Maryland's holding that the Eighth Amendment prohibits a capital sentencing jury from considering evidence of a victim’s family members’ opinions about the crime, the defendant, and the appropriate sentence.

A jury convicted Petitioner of three counts of first degree murder. Seeking the death penalty, Respondent had three of the victims’ relatives recommend a sentence to the jury and all three recommended death. The jury agreed. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the relatives’ testimony violated the Eighth Amendment pursuant to Booth v. Maryland. In Booth, the Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits a capital sentencing jury from considering victim impact evidence that is not directly related to the circumstances of the crime. In a later decision, Payne v. Tennessee, the Supreme Court held that Booth was wrong and that the Eighth Amendment does not prohibit evidence relating to personal characteristics of the victim and the emotional impact of the crime on the victim’s family. However, the Payne holding was limited to those particular types of victim impact evidence. Payne did not reconsider Booth’s holding that the Eighth Amendment prohibits evidence of a victim’s family members’ opinions about the crime, the defendant, and the appropriate sentence. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals (Court of Appeals) affirmed Petitioner’s sentence on the grounds that Payne implicitly overruled Booth regarding opinions about the crime, the defendant, and the sentence. Here, the Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeals was wrong to conclude that Payne overruled Booth entirely. The Court’s decisions are binding precedent until reconsidered and Payne did not affect Booth’s prohibition on evidence regarding opinions about the crime, the defendant, and the sentence. The Court of Appeals was bound by Booth’s prohibition. VACATED and REMANDED. 

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