Bell v. Ohio
The High Court Strikes Down Ohio's Law
In reviewing the case of Bell v. Ohio, the Court ruled 7-1 in favor of Bell. In an opinion joined by Stewart, Powell, and Stevens, Chief Justice Burger made two points. First, he said, the two Amendments referred to in Bell's case do indeed require that the sentencing judge not be prevented from considering any and all possible mitigating factors relating to the defendant or the circumstances of the offense. And second, the Ohio death penalty statute precludes such individualized consideration of mitigating factors.
Justices White and Blackmun concurred with the judgment, but for different reasons, both finding causes why the death sentence was invalid in this instance. Marshall, while also concurring with the judgment, announced that he believed the death penalty to be cruel and unusual punishment under all circumstances, and therefore disagreed with "the Court's assumption to the contrary." The lone dissenter was Justice Rehnquist, who ruled, as he had earlier that year in the case of Lockett v. Ohio, that federal law can only require that states give defendants fair trials--not that they hear all possible mitigating testimony.
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