Kansas v. Carr, Jonathan

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: March 30, 2015
  • Case #: 14-449
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court Below: 329 P.3d 1195 (Kan. 2014)
  • Full Text Opinion

Does the Eighth Amendment require a jury engaged in capital sentencing to be “affirmatively instructed” that mitigating circumstances “need not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, or whether jury instructions, in context, that are clear that each individual juror must analyze and give weight to a mitigating circumstance satisfies the Eighth Amendment? Also, whether a trial court’s decision to not sever a sibling co-defendant’s sentencing phase from respondent’s violated the right to “individualized sentencing” under the Eighth Amendment and if severed, was not harmless error?

The Court consolidated this case with Court’s case #14-450 Kansas v. Carr, Reginald, (331 P.3d 544 (Kan. 2014)). Both cases involve similar facts and co-defendants.

Respondent, was convicted of 43 criminal offenses, including four death penalty convictions, and appealed in state court. The Kansas Supreme Court held that the failure of the trial judge to sever Respondent’s sentencing phase from a sibling co-defendant violated the Eighth Amendment. The Kansas Supreme Court also held that the trial court judge erred by failing to inform the jury that mitigating factors do not have be proved by a “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden of proof. Petitioner filed a writ of certiorari.

The Court grants certiorari to answer the following questions: 1) Does the Eighth Amendment require a jury engaged in capital sentencing to be “affirmatively instructed” that mitigating circumstances “need not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, or whether jury instructions, in context, that are clear that each individual juror must analyze and give weight to a mitigating circumstance satisfies the Eighth Amendment, and 2) Whether a trial court’s decision to not sever a sibling co-defendant’s sentencing phase from respondent’s violated the right to “individualized sentencing” under the Eighth Amendment and if severed, was not harmless error?

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