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THE NATION | THE SUPREME COURT

In the Justices' Own Words

June 25, 2002|From Associated Press

Excerpts from the Supreme Court's decision, which states that only a jury can hand down a death sentence:

"Capital defendants, no less than non-capital defendants, we conclude, are entitled to a jury determination of any fact on which the legislature conditions an increase in their maximum punishment." -- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the court.

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The Court has failed ... to offer any meaningful justification for deviating from years of cases both suggesting and holding that application of the "increase in the maximum penalty rule is not required by the Constitution." -- Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, dissenting.

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"Apart from the Eighth Amendment provenance of aggravating factors, Arizona presents no specific reason for excepting capital defendants from the constitutional protections ... extended to defendants generally, and none is readily apparent." -- Ginsburg.

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"The Court effectively declares five states' capital sentencing schemes unconstitutional.... There are 168 prisoners on death row in these states ... each of whom is now likely to challenge his or her death sentence." -- O'Connor.

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"I believe many of these challenges will ultimately be unsuccessful, either because the prisoners will be unable to satisfy the standards of harmless error or plain error review, or because, having completed their direct appeals, they will be barred from taking advantage of today's holding on federal collateral review.... Nonetheless, the need to evaluate these claims will greatly burden the courts in these five States. " -- O'Connor.

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