30 June 2006

State v. Stephenson

Link to opinion (Tennessee Supreme Court). The remarkable thing about this capital murder case is this: Defendant was tried and convicted of the charges in 1990 (he hired for someone to murder his estranged wife). At the initial sentencing hearing, the death sentence was imposed. During the initial set of appeals, the sentence was reversed. On remand, the State opted not to seek the death penalty and the defendant was re-sentenced to life in prison without parole. In 1998, defendant fights this sentence as well in a habeas action on the grounds that it was void. The Supreme Court agrees. On remand, the state again sought the death penalty. The re-sentencing jury agreed, so the original sentence was re-imposed. In this month's ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed.

Moral of the story: If you're a capital murder defendant who managed to get a death sentence reduced to life, be careful about what you ask for. You might very well get it, along with some extremely unpleasant surprises. Such as re-opening the door to the death penalty.

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