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Bell v. Ohio

Significance, Ohio Sentences Bell To The Death Penalty, The High Court Strikes Down Ohio's Law


Willie Lee Bell


State of Ohio

Petitioner's Claim

That his conviction of aggravated murder, which resulted in a death sentence under the Ohio death penalty statute, violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution by preventing the sentencing judge from taking into account mitigating factors with regard to his character and intelligence.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

H. Fred Hoefle

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Leonard Kirschner

Justices for the Court

Harry A. Blackmun, Warren E. Burger (writing for the Court), Thurgood Marshall, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., John Paul Stevens, Potter Stewart, Byron R. White

Justices Dissenting

William H. Rehnquist (William J. Brennan, Jr., did not participate)


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

3 July 1978


That the Ohio death penalty statute does not allow for consideration of all possible mitigating factors in sentencing a defendant, as provided in the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution; therefore the Court ruled in favor of the appellant.

Related Cases

  • Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972).
  • Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586 (1978).

Further Readings

  • Biskupic, Joan, and Elder Witt, eds. Congressional Quarterly's Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court, 3rd ed. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, Inc., 1996.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980