Kansas v. Gleason

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Sentencing
  • Date Filed: March 30, 2015
  • Case #: 14-452
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Court below: 299 Kan.1127, 329 P.3d 1102 (2014)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether a capital-sentencing jury is required by the Eighth Amendment to be affirmatively instructed, as the Kansas Supreme Court held, that mitigating circumstances need not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, or if the Eight Amendment is satisfied by merely providing instructions that make clear that every juror must weigh and assess mitigating circumstances.

Respondent was part of a group that robbed a man at knife point. Later, Respondent killed another man, kidnapped his girlfriend, and killed her. Respondent was found guilty, and a penalty phase began. The State presented four aggravating circumstances of the crimes, in order to get the death penalty, and the jury found that the aggravating circumstances outweighed all of the mitigating circumstances; Respondent was given the death penalty.

Respondent appealed his sentence, arguing that, inter alia, the district court failed to adequately instruct the jury. The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Respondent's conviction for capital murder, but overturned his death sentence, because that court found that the trial court's failure affirmatively inform the jury that mitigating circumstances do not need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt violated the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution. The State petitioned the US Supreme Court, arguing that Kansas Supreme Court's decision conflicts with several other courts' decisions, that misinterpreted the Supreme Court precedent, that it undermines uniform interpretation of the Eighth Amendment in capital cases, and that allowing the law to stand would have significant adverse effect on Kansas' ability to enforce its capital murder laws.

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