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Jurek v. Texas

428 U.S. 262, 96 S. Ct. 2950, 49 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1976)

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Jurek v. Texas

United States Supreme Court

428 U.S. 262, 96 S. Ct. 2950, 49 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1976)

Facts

Jerry Jurek (defendant) was found guilty of murder of 10-year-old Wendy Adams. The Texas penal code limits capital murder to five categories of homicide such as murder of a peace officer or murder during a serious crime like kidnapping or rape. The evidence at trial included several eyewitnesses who had testified against Jurek. Two of Jurek’s friends were driving around with Jurek in Jurek’s pickup truck the day of the murder. When Jurek expressed a desire to have sexual relations with some young girls, one of the friends said the girls were too young. Jurek dropped off the two friends. Jurek was observed talking to Adams at a public swimming pool. Witnesses testified that they had seen Jurek driving through town with a young blonde girl in his pickup truck. One witness testified that the girl was screaming for help. That witness attempted, but failed, to follow the pickup truck. According to Jurek’s own statement, he took Adams to the river, choked her, and threw her into the river. After the jury returned a guilty verdict, the trial court conducted a separate sentencing proceeding with the trial jury. In the proceeding, the state (plaintiff) called several witnesses who testified to Jurek’s bad reputation. Jurek’s father testified positively as to Jurek’s character. Per a state statute, the jury answered two questions about Jurek’s case to determine whether the death penalty should be imposed. First, was the murder committed deliberately and with the reasonable expectation of death of another beyond a reasonable doubt? Second, was there a probability that Jurek would commit criminal acts of violence that constituted a threat to society beyond a reasonable doubt? The jury answered affirmatively to both questions. The answers were unanimous. The judge then sentenced Jurek to death. Jurek appealed to the Texas appellate court, which affirmed the judgment. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Stevens, J.)

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