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California v. Ramos

463 U.S. 992, 103 S. Ct. 3446, 77 L. Ed. 2d 1171 (1983)

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California v. Ramos

United States Supreme Court

463 U.S. 992, 103 S. Ct. 3446, 77 L. Ed. 2d 1171 (1983)

Facts

Marcelino Ramos (defendant) shot two coworkers, killing one, during the course of a robbery. At trial, a jury found Ramos guilty of robbery, attempted murder, and first-degree murder. During the penalty phase of the trial, Ramos offered a great deal of mitigation evidence. The court instructed the jury on aggravating and mitigating circumstances and the fact that the governor of California may commute a life sentence without the possibility of parole to a sentence that includes the possibility of parole (the Briggs Instruction). Ramos was sentenced to death. The California Supreme Court affirmed Ramos’s conviction but reversed the death sentence. The California Supreme Court held that the Briggs Instruction was unconstitutional because it added a speculative element to the jury’s determination and it failed to inform the jury that the governor could commute a death sentence. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (O’Connor, J.)

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