Delaware Supreme Court eliminates death penalty pursuant to SCOTUS opinion

Posted: August 10, 2016 by Nazim in Death Penalty, Federalism

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The Delaware Supreme Court held that, in light of the Federal Supreme Court’s holding in Hurst v. Florida, Delaware’s death penalty is in violation of the Federal Constitution because it is imposed by a judge, and not by a jury, as Hurst requires. The last execution in Delaware was in 2012, by lethal injection, another contentious death penalty issue, but the 14 guys currently on the Delaware death row are probably breathing a sigh of relief, at least until the state legislature changes the procedure, a thing that may or may not happen.

It’s also interesting that the DE Court recognizes the difficulty of the task:

In this case, we are asked to address important questions regarding the constitutionality of our state‘s death penalty statute. The Superior Court believed that Hurst reflected an evolution of the law that raised serious questions about the continuing validity of Delaware‘s death penalty statute. Specifically, Hurst prompted the question of whether our death penalty statute sufficiently respects a defendant‘s Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.

Because answering the certified questions requires us to interpret not simply the Sixth Amendment itself, but the complex body of case law interpreting it, we have a diversity of views on exactly why the answers to the questions are what we have found them to be. But that diversity of views is outweighed by the majority‘s collective view that Delaware‘s current death penalty statute violates the Sixth Amendment role of the jury as set forth in Hurst. We also have a shared belief that the importance of the subject to our state and our fellow citizens, reflected in the excellent briefs and arguments of the parties, makes it useful for all the Justices to bring our various perspectives to bear on these difficult questions.

Full opinion of Rauf v. Delaware in this link (pdf warning).

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