A NOTE ON EVIDENCE CONSIDERED AT SENTENCING

In 2006 the U.S. Supreme Court was asked to consider the issue of whether the State may limit the innocence-related evidence he can introduce at that proceeding to the evidence he introduced at his original trial. Oregon v. Guzek, 126 S.Ct. 1226, 1228 (2006). In Guzek, the defendant was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. Id. Guzek’s defense rested mainly on two alibi witnesses, his grandfather and his mother, who testified that he was with “one or the other.” Id. At the sentencing phase, Guzek sought to introduce testimony from his mother that she was with him on the night in question. The Court considered this to be new evidence, which went to whether he did the crime, not how he did it.

The Eighth Amendment insists that a sentencing jury be able to consider mitigating evidence about the defendant so that if it imposes the death penalty, it is the appropriate punishment. Id. The Supreme Court held Athat nothing in the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendments…provides a capital defendant a right to introduce new evidence of this kind at sentencing. Id. Thus, a State may set limits on what evidence a defendant may submit at sentencing, as long as the limits are reasonable, and the State may control the manner that the evidence is submitted. Id. The Court reasoned that the Eighth Amendment does not require evidence aimed at casting Aresidual doubt on the defendant’s guilt because it would only be inconsistent with the conviction assessed at the guilt phase of trial.

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