Defendants must be allowed to tell jurors in death penalty cases if they are ineligible for parole

Supreme Court of United States: The Court by a majority of 6:2 reversed the decision of the Arizona Supreme Court where the Court rejected defendant’s alternative argument that the trial court had violated Simmons . The Court held that the accused has a right to bring his parole ineligibility to the jury’s attention.

In this case the Arizona Supreme Court confirmed that parole was unavailable to defendant because under Arizona laws “parole is available only to individuals who committed felony before January 1, 1994” and here defendant has committed his crimes in 2001. However, in Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154(1994), it was held “where a capital defendants future dangerously is at issue, and the only sentence alternative to death available to the jury is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole” the Due Process Clause “entitles the defendant to inform the jury of his parole ineligibility either by a jury instruction or in argument by the council.” Hence Simmons establishes defendant’s right to inform his jury of the fact. But the Arizona Supreme Court held that “the failure to give Simmons instructions was not an error” which was reversed by the Court observing that the due process entitled the defendant to rebut the prosecution’s arguments that the defendant posed a future danger by informing his sentencing jury that he is parole ineligible.  Moreover, the Court also rejected the Arizona Supreme Court’s holding that Lynch might yet receive parole in the future because the legislature could liberalize parole laws and noted that “the potential for future ‘legislative reform’ could not justify refusing a parole-ineligibility instruction. If it were otherwise, a State could always argue that its legislature might pass a law rendering the defendant parole eligible.”  Thomas and Alito, JJ., gave the dissenting opinion, [Shawn Patrick Lynch v. Arizona, 578 U.S __ (2016), decided on 31.5.2016.]

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