Can Principles of Accessorial Liability Be Used to Prove Aggravating Factors Under the Eighth Amendment
In State v. Peeler, 271 Conn. 338, 857 A.2d 808 (Conn. 2004), the Supreme Court of Connecticut expressly rejected Omelus and held that HAC could be vicariously applied.
The court determined that vicarious application of heinous atrocious and cruel (HAC) is permitted by Tison v. Arizona, 481 U.S. 137, 107 S. Ct. 1676, 95 L. Ed. 2d 127 (1987):
Although the Tison court did not address expressly the narrow issue before this court, i.e., whether principles of accessorial liability may be used to prove aggravating factors under the eighth amendment, in broadly concluding that the eighth amendment did not preclude the imposition of the death penalty based on accessorial liability when there is "major participation" by the defendant and he evidences a "reckless indifference to human life"; the court acknowledged that the eighth amendment does not preclude using accessorial liability to prove aggravating factors.
By explicitly recognizing the trial court's finding of aggravating factors established through principles of accessorial liability, and thereafter concluding that an accessory could be sentenced to death, the Supreme Court in Tison implicitly concluded that the eighth amendment permitted the use of accessorial liability to prove aggravating factors.
In other words, by answering the broader question, i.e., whether the eighth amendment permitted imposing the death penalty on an accessory, the Tison court necessarily decided the more narrow issue that is presently before us, namely, whether accessorial liability may be used to prove aggravating factors. Peeler, 857 A.2d at 876 (quoting Tison, 481 U.S. at 152).
Ultimately, Peeler concluded that "when principles of accessorial liability are used to prove the existence of aggravating factors, the additional requirements that a defendant be a 'major' participant and that he exhibit a 'reckless indifference to human life,' as established by the United States Supreme Court in Tison . . . sufficiently protect a defendant's constitutional rights under the eighth amendment." Peeler, 857 A.2d at 878 (quoting Tison, 481 U.S. at 158).