Mark Berman at the Washington Post has this story
on the Hurst
remand argument, noted in my post
yesterday. Unfortunately, the article contains a glaring error.
The uncertain situation dates back to January, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida's unique system of imposing death sentences as unconstitutional because it let judges, rather than juries, make the final call.
Wrong. The issue in Hurst
was the finding of an aggravating circumstance making the defendant eligible
for the death penalty. Way back in the Spaziano
case in 1984, as described in my previous post, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that the Sixth Amendment requires that the jury make "the final call."
In light of the facts that the Sixth Amendment does not require jury sentencing, that the demands of fairness and reliability in capital cases do not require it, and that neither the nature of, nor the purpose behind, the death penalty requires jury sentencing, we cannot conclude that placing responsibility on the trial judge to impose the sentence in a capital case is unconstitutional.
Court was very careful not to say that Spaziano
was overruled entirely. Instead, Spaziano
were overruled only "to the extent they allow a sentencing judge to find an aggravating circumstance, independent of a jury's factfinding, that is necessary for imposition of the death penalty." In other words, Spaziano
is still good law on the "final call."
Why does the WaPo keep getting things wrong on capital cases? Maybe it's because the "experts" consulted for their stories consist mostly, if not entirely, of advocates for one side of the issue.