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Smith v. Texas
United States Supreme Court
543 U.S. 37, 125 S. Ct. 400, 160 L. Ed. 2d 303 (2004)
LaRoyce Smith (defendant) killed a former coworker while robbing a Taco Bell. Smith was convicted of capital murder by a jury. During the sentencing phase, Smith presented evidence of organic learning disabilities, his low IQ, and a troubled childhood as mitigating circumstances. The prosecutor presented evidence of the deliberate and cruel nature of the murder and Smith’s prior crimes, which purportedly indicated future dangerousness, as aggravating circumstances. The trial judge orally instructed the jury that it could give effect to evidence of mitigating circumstances and avoid imposition of a death sentence by negating one of the two special issues of deliberateness and future dangerousness contained in the jury verdict form. The form solely asked whether Smith acted deliberately and whether there was a probability that Smith would commit violent acts in the future. There was no mention of nullification of the death penalty or mitigating evidence. The form permitted only “yes” or “no” answers to the questions of deliberateness and future dangerousness. The jury answered “yes” to both questions, so Smith was sentenced to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that the jury instructions were adequate to permit the jury to consider mitigating evidence. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)
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