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Barclay v. Florida

463 U.S. 939, 103 S. Ct. 3418, 77 L. Ed. 2d 1134 (1983)

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Barclay v. Florida

United States Supreme Court

463 U.S. 939, 103 S. Ct. 3418, 77 L. Ed. 2d 1134 (1983)

Facts

Elwood Barclay (defendant) was a member of the Black Liberation Army. The Black Liberation Army intended to start a race war. On the day of the murder for which Barclay was convicted, Barclay and several other members sought to kill a White person to further their intention to cause a race war. The group found Stephen Orlando, who had been hitch-hiking. They took Orlando to an isolated location. Barclay repeatedly stabbed Orlando. Fellow member, Dougan shot Orlando twice in the head and killed him. Dougan left a note on Orlando’s body that consisted of inflammatory language and a gloating description of the murder. A jury convicted Barclay and Dougan of first-degree murder. A sentencing hearing was held. The jury advised a death sentence for Dougan and life imprisonment for Barclay. The judge rejected the life-imprisonment advisement and imposed death sentences on both men. Two of the other men involved were convicted of second-degree murder. Another man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. The trial judge found a number of aggravating circumstances to be present for Barclay. The trial judge did not find any mitigating circumstances and determined that Barclay’s significant criminal record was an aggravating circumstance and not a mitigating circumstance. The trial judge also found that Barclay’s breaking-and-entering conviction was an aggravating factor despite the lack of any indication it involved violence or the threat of violence. The Florida Supreme Court automatically reviewed Barclay’s death sentence. The Florida Supreme Court conducted a harmless-error analysis of the sentencing order. Despite the trial court judge’s improper consideration of two improper aggravating circumstances (Barclay’s criminal record and the breaking-and-entering conviction could not be considered aggravating factors under state law), the Florida Supreme Court held that such improper consideration was harmless. Barclay appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, J.)

Concurrence (Stevens, J.)

Dissent (Marshall, J.)

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