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Lockett v. Ohio

United States Supreme Court
438 U.S. 586, 98 S.Ct. 2954, 57 L.Ed.2d 973 (1978)


Al Parker, Nathan Dew, Sandra Lockett (defendant), and Lockett’s brother concocted a plan to rob a pawnshop. They decided that after Lockett’s brother and Dew entered the store, Parker would enter, ask to see a gun, load it with bullets he had brought, and rob the owner at gunpoint, while Lockett remained outside and drove the getaway car. The crime went according to plan, until the pawnshop owner attempted to grab the gun. The gun fired, with Parker’s finger on the trigger, and the owner was shot and killed. Lockett drove Parker away after the shooting and attempted to hide him and Dew from the police. All four of the conspirators were eventually arrested. Lockett was charged with aggravated murder and aggravated robbery, and found guilty. Under Ohio law, the judge was required to impose the death penalty unless the victim had contributed to the offense, the defendant had only committed the offense under duress, or the offense was primarily the product of the defendant’s mental deficiency or psychosis. Since none of these mitigating factors existed, the judge sentenced Lockett to death. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether the Ohio law violated the Eight and Fourteenth Amendments by so narrowly limiting the sentencer’s ability to consider the circumstances of the crime or the defendant’s character to mitigate the penalty.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Burger, C.J.)

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