Thursday, April 26, 2007
The U.S. Supreme Court on April 25 issued three habeas corpus rulings overturning death sentences imposed in Texas.
In Abdul Kabir v. Quarterman, No. 05-11284, and Brewer v. Quarterman, 05-11287, the court held that Texas courts' rulings that the state's former capital sentencing scheme allowed penalty phase jurors to give constitutionally adequate consideration to mitigating evidence of mental impairment or childhood neglect and abuse constituted, for purposes of the federal habeas corpus statute, an "unreasonable application" of Penry v. Lynaugh and other Supreme Court caselaw interpreting the Eighth Amendment.
In Smith v. Texas, No. 05-11304, the court reaffirmed an earlier ruling that the petitioner's death sentence was fatally flawed under the same Texas sentencing scheme, and it decided that the state courts misunderstood the basis of court's prior ruling when they applied a rigorous standard of review en route to upholding the sentence on remand. [Mark Godsey]