Is An Individulalized Decision Essential In Capital Cases ?
In Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586, 57 L. Ed. 2d 973, 98 S. Ct. 2954 (1978) (plurality), the United States Supreme Court held that "the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments require that the sentencer, in all but the rarest kind of capital case, not be precluded from considering, as a mitigating factor, any aspect of a defendant's character or record and any of the circumstances of the offense that the defendant proffers as a basis for a sentence less than death." Id. at 604.;
See also Skipper v. South Carolina, 476 U.S. 1, 4, 90 L. Ed. 2d 1, 106 S. Ct. 1669 (1986); Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104, 110, 71 L. Ed. 2d 1, 102 S. Ct. 869 (1982).
In reaching this conclusion in Lockett, the Court reasoned that "given that the imposition of death by public authority is so profoundly different from all other penalties, we cannot avoid the conclusion that an individualized decision is essential in capital cases." 438 U.S. at 605.
In its later decision in Hitchcock v. Dugger, 481 U.S. 393, 399, 95 L. Ed. 2d 347, 107 S. Ct. 1821 (1987), the United States Supreme Court vacated the death penalty of a Florida defendant where the State did not establish the harmlessness of the error occurring when the defendant's advisory jury was instructed not to consider nonstatutory mitigation and the trial judge did not consider nonstatutory mitigation.