For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
Date: June 24, 2004
Resentencing Not Required In 14 Idaho Capital Cases
(Boise) - A decision issued by the United States Supreme Court today means that 14 of the 20 Idaho prisoners sentenced to death do not have to be resentenced by a jury, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said.
The Supreme Court, in a five to four decision, reversed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Schriro v. Summerlin.
"Today's decision provides much needed clarification of the Court's earlier decision in the Ring case," Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said. "As a result of the decision, the victims' families will not have to go through the trauma of resentencing proceedings for every death-sentenced defendant."
Today's decision states that the Supreme Court's 2002 decision in Ring v. Arizona applies only to defendants whose state appeals were not completed on June 24, 2002, the date the Ring decision was issued. In the Ring case, the Court held that defendants have the right to have a jury decide whether statutory aggravating factors exist for purposes of deciding who is eligible for a death sentence.
The Summerlin decision affects death sentences in Idaho and several other states that, in accordance with prior Supreme Court precedent, had allowed a judge to decide whether there were any statutory aggravating factors for imposing the death penalty.
The Supreme Court said that because Ring does not implicate the fundamental fairness and accuracy of the criminal proceeding, the ruling in Ring does not apply retroactively to death-sentenced defendants whose state appeals were completed before Ring. The Supreme Court concluded, "when a criminal defendant has had a full trial and one round of appeals in which the State faithfully applied the Constitution as we understood it at the time, he may [not] continue to litigate his claims indefinitely in hopes that we will one day have a change of heart."
The decision leaves intact the death sentences of 14 Idaho inmates whose state appeals were completed before Ring. The inmates are: Leslie Card, Thomas Creech, Zane Fields, James Hairston, Maxwell Hoffman, Mark Lankford, Richard Leavitt, Randy McKinney, Gerald Pizzuto, George Porter, Paul Rhoades, Robin Row, Lacey Sivak and Gene Stuart. Litigation on other issues will continue before the federal courts in each of those cases.
Four Idaho inmates, Timothy Dunlap, Michael Jauhola, Faron Lovelace and Jimmie Thomas, must be resentenced because their state appeals were not concluded prior to Ring, or for reasons unrelated to Ring. Two inmates, Dale Shackleford and Darrell Payne, have pending appeals before the Idaho Supreme Court. It is unknown whether Ring will require reversal of their death sentences and resentencing.
In response to the Ring decision, the Idaho Legislature passed a law in 2003 providing for jury sentencing in capital cases. To date, no capital cases have gone to trial under the new law.
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