Smith v. Texas
CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALS OF TEXAS
Mark Anthony Bolden Jr.
LaRoyce Lathair Smith was convicted of capital murder and after some time being in court he was sentenced to death by a jury in Dallas County, Texas (Kennedy). This case deals with whether or not the death penalty should be nullified due to the jury’s improper instruction, how weak the two special issues are in certain cases, and since there was claim against constitutional error, there was no sign that he would cause future deliberate danger towards the public (Breyer). In 1991 the petitioner was convicted for viciously murdering one of his former co-workers ...view middle of the document...
Because of the failed objective, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said that a person cannot get rid of his/her death sentence unless surmounting a Texas rule that is analogous federal rule. The Almanza v. State case made Texas adopt a rule stating that a criminal defendant who does not object to the jury’s instruction will not receive a reversal just because the instruction mistake was harmful. Instead, the defendant must meet a heightened standard, but if the standard is not met the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will make the petitioner’s sentence stand (Kennedy).
Since the petitioners have not succeeded in raising the objection to the court’s attempt to help the federal defect, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals now has to use the strict Almanza rule, a rule that represents a state-law ground for decision (Kennedy).
During the trial Texas said that the jury had to answer two questions (sometimes three), these questions are known as the “special issues.” The questions that have to be answered in every court case are:
1. “If the behavior of the defendant that killed a person did it on purpose and whether that person expected to have his/her actions to cause death.”
2. “If the person that committed the violent crime has done this causing a continuous threat to the public.”
If all of the jury says that the defendant did indeed do both of these two things, then that person is given the death penalty, but if not that person is given a sentence of life in prison (Kennedy).
In the Jurek v. Texas case of 1976, the courts kept the facial constitutionality, but in the Penry case the (1)Eighth Amendment was violated because the evidence of Penry’s mental retardation and severe child abuse did not fit appropriately go with the “special issues.” Because of Penry’s mental retardation it was in question whether his actions were deliberate or not. The court wrote:
“In the absence of jury instructions defining ‘deliberately’ in a way that would clearly direct the jury to consider fully Penry’s mitigating evidence as it bears on his personal culpability, we cannot be sure that the jury was able to give effect to the mitigating evidence of Penry’s mental retardation and history of abuse in answering the first special issue. Without such a special instruction, a juror who believed that Penry’s retardation and background diminished his moral culpability and made imposition of the death penalty unwarranted would be unable to give effect to that conclusion if the juror also believed that Penry committed the crime ‘deliberately.’ Thus, we cannot be sure that the jury’s answer to the first special issue reflected a ‘reasoned moral response’ to Penry’s mitigating evidence.”(492 U. S., at 322–323)
Trials were held in 1991 after the first Penry case, but before the second Penry case (Penry v. Johnson), that was held in 2001.During the guilt phase, it was uncovered that the defendant committed an extremely vicious and callous murder. The former employee of a fast...