Supreme Court rules in close death penalty case

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled 5-4 Wednesday that a death sentence can stand in some circumstances even when the sentencing jury relied in part on a factor later found invalid. In Brown v. Sanders [Duke Law case backgrounder], the Court considered the appeal of convicted murderer Ronald Sanders, sentenced to death in by a California jury in 1982. The majority held that an invalid sentencing factor "will render the sentence unconstitutional by reason of its adding an improper element to the aggravation scale in the weighing process unless one of the other sentencing factors enables the sentencer to give aggravating weight to the same facts and circumstances", but it found no constitutional violation in Sanders' own case and reversed the Ninth Circuit ruling [PDF text] that had thrown out his death sentence. Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Scalia, along with a dissent [text] from Justice Stevens, joined by Justice Souter, and a second dissent [text] from Justice Breyer, joined by Justice Ginsburg. AP has more.

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