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Estelle v. Smith
United States Supreme Court
451 U.S. 454, 101 S. Ct. 1866, 68 L. Ed. 2d 359 (1981)
Ernest Benjamin Smith (defendant) was convicted of murder after a store clerk was killed by his accomplice during an armed robbery. Before his trial and after the state gave notice of its intent to seek the death penalty, the judge informally ordered that Smith be examined by a state psychiatrist to determine his competency to stand trial. After examining Smith, without the presence of Smith’s counsel, the psychiatrist concluded that Smith was competent to stand trial. The state did not give notice of its intent to use the psychiatrist’s testimony during any proceeding against Smith. However, the state called the psychiatrist during Smith’s penalty phase to testify regarding Smith’s future dangerousness, a prerequisite for imposing the death penalty. The testimony was allowed over Smith’s objection, and the jury determined that Smith met the requirements for a mandatory death sentence. Smith unsuccessfully sought a writ of habeas corpus in state court, so he petitioned a United States district court for relief. The district court vacated Smith’s sentence, finding that the state’s psychiatric evidence violated Smith’s right to remain silent and his right to counsel. A court of appeals affirmed the district court, and Smith requested certiorari.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Burger, C.J.)
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