The title of this post is the title of an ABA Journal article by David Savage (h/t SL&P). The article discusses the Supreme Court capital cases of the present term.
If the law on sentencing is confused, the high court itself bears part of the blame. It has been closely split on death penalty cases, and some of its narrowly decided opinions have left the door open for differing interpretations in the lower courts.
That's a serious candidate for understatement of the year, and we're only in the second week.
How's this for a simple rule? If the state capital sentencing system conforms to the broad outline required by Gregg v. Georgia and its companion cases, the Furman mandate is satisfied. The implementation of that system in individual cases is a matter of state law.