[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday upheld California's "catch-all" jury instruction for death penalty cases, ruling that the instructions provide adequate opportunity for jurors to weigh evidence that favors the defendant. In a 5-4 decision in Ayers v. Belmontes [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], the Court reinstated Belmontes' conviction for first degree murder in the killing of a 19 year old woman during a burglary. Belmontes had appealed his death penalty sentence, arguing that the jury instructions did not require the jury to consider all mitigating factors, including his probable future conduct in prison. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit vacated the sentence [opinion, PDF] and California prosecutors appealed to have his sentence reinstated.
Read the Court's majority opinion [text] per Justice Kennedy, along with a concurrence [text] from Justice Scalia and a dissent [text] from Justice Stevens. AP has more. SCOTUSblog has additional coverage.