Cabana v. Bullock

Decision Date22 January 1986
Docket NumberNo. 84-1236,84-1236
Citation474 U.S. 376,88 L.Ed.2d 704,106 S.Ct. 689
PartiesDonald A. CABANA, Superintendent, Mississippi State Penitentiary, et al., Petitioners v. Crawford BULLOCK, Jr
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

After respondent and his friend Tucker accepted Dickson's offer of a ride home, a fight developed between Tucker and Dickson, and Dickson stopped the car. Respondent held Dickson's head as Tucker struck Dickson in the face with a whiskey bottle. Tucker then pummeled Dickson with his fists until Dickson fell to the ground and lay helpless, at which point Tucker killed him by smashing his skull with a concrete block. Respondent and Tucker disposed of the body, and respondent kept Dickson's car for himself. Respondent was arrested the next day and was charged with capital murder under a Mississippi statute. The jury found him guilty and, following a separate sentencing hearing, sentenced him to death. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed, finding that the capital murder verdict and death sentence were sustainable under a Mississippi law making an accomplice equally responsible with the principal offender. After exhausting state postconviction remedies, respondent filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in Federal District Court, which denied the writ. The Court of Appeals reversed on the ground that respondent's death sentence was invalid under the intervening decision in Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782, 102 S.Ct. 3368, 73 L.Ed.2d 1140 (1982), that the Eighth Amendment forbids the imposition of the death penalty on "one who aids and abets a felony in the course of which a murder is committed by others but who does not himself kill, attempt to kill, or intend that a killing take place or that lethal force will be employed." Id., at 797, 102 S.Ct., at 3376. The court based its conclusion solely upon its reading of the jury instructions at respondent's state trial, reasoning that under those instructions the jury may well have found respondent guilty and sentenced him to death despite concluding that he had neither killed nor intended to kill or without ever coming to any conclusion on those questions. Accordingly, the court granted a writ of habeas corpus and vacated respondent's death sentence but permitted the State, at its option, to impose a life sentence or conduct a new sentencing hearing at which, with the proper findings, a death sentence could be reimposed.

Held:

1. The Court of Appeals was correct in concluding that neither the jury's verdict of guilt nor its imposition of the death sentence necessarily reflected a finding that respondent killed, attempted to kill, or intended to kill. Pp. 383-384.

2. But the Court of Appeals erred in focusing exclusively on the jury and in ordering a new sentencing hearing without inquiring whether the necessary finding of intent had been made by the state trial court or appellate court. The Enmund rule need not be enforced by the jury and does not impose any particular form of procedure upon the States. At what point in its criminal process a State chooses to make the Enmund determination is of little concern from the standpoint of the Constitution. Accordingly, when a federal habeas corpus court reviews an Enmund claim, its inquiry cannot be limited to an examination of jury instructions. Rather, the court must examine the entire course of the state proceedings in order to determine whether, at some point, the requisite factual finding as to the defendant's culpability has been made. If it has, the finding must be presumed correct by virtue of 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), and unless the habeas petitioner can bear the burden of overcoming the presumption, the court must hold that the Eighth Amendment as interpreted in Enmund is not offended by the death sentence. Pp. 384-388.

3. The Mississippi Supreme Court's finding was insufficient to satisfy Enmund, for Enmund holds that the Eighth Amendment does more than require that a death-sentenced defendant be legally responsible for a killing as a matter of state law; it requires that he himself have actually killed, attempted to kill, or intended that a killing take place or that lethal force be used. Pp. 389-390.

4. The proper course for a federal court faced with a habeas corpus petition raising an Enmund claim when the state courts have failed to make any finding regarding the Enmund criteria is to take steps to require the State's own judicial system to make the factual findings in the first instance. Therefore, it is Mississippi, not the federal habeas corpus court, that should first provide respondent with a reliable determination as to whether he killed, attempted to kill, or intended that a killing take place or that lethal force be used. Pp. 390-391.

5. Here, the District Court should be directed to issue the habeas corpus writ vacating respondent's death sentence but to leave to the State the choice of either imposing a sentence of life imprisonment or reimposing the death sentence after obtaining a determination from its own courts of the factual question whether respondent killed, attempted to kill, intended to kill, or intended that lethal force would be used. P. 392.

743 F.2d 244 (CA5 1984), modified and remanded.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. BURGER, C.J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 392. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, 393. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 394. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 407.

Marvin L. White, Jr., Jackson, Miss., for petitioners.

Joseph T. McLaughlin, New York City, for respondent.

Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

In Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782, 102 S.Ct. 3368, 73 L.Ed.2d 1140 (1982), we ruled that the Eighth Amendment forbids the imposition of the death penalty on "one . . . who aids and abets a felony in the course of which a murder is committed by others but who does not himself kill, attempt to kill, or intend that a killing take place or that lethal force will be employed." Id., at 797, 102 S.Ct., at 3376. This case requires us to determine in whose hands the decision that a defendant possesses the requisite degree of culpability properly lies.

I

Early in the morning of September 22, 1978, respondent Crawford Bullock and his friend Ricky Tucker accepted Mark Dickson's offer of a ride home from a bar in Jackson, Mississippi. During the course of the ride, Tucker and Dickson began to argue about some money Dickson supposedly owed Tucker. The argument became a fight: Dickson stopped the car, and Dickson and Tucker exchanged blows. Bullock attempted to grab Dickson, but Dickson eluded his grasp and fled from the car. Tucker gave chase and succeeded in tackling Dickson, while Bullock, who had a cast on his leg, followed more slowly. When Bullock caught up with the struggling men, he held Dickson's head as Tucker struck Dickson in the face with a whiskey bottle. Tucker then pummeled Dickson with his fists until Dickson fell to the ground. As Dickson lay helpless, Tucker killed him by smashing his skull with repeated blows from a concrete block. Bullock and Tucker together disposed of Dickson's body, and Bullock kept Dickson's car for himself. Bullock was arrested the next day when police spotted him driving the car. Under questioning at the police station, he confessed to his participation in the course of events just described.

Bullock was charged with capital murder under a Mississippi statute that provided that "[t]he killing of a human being without the authority of law by any means or in any manner shall be capital murder . . . [w]hen done with or without any design to effect death, by any person engaged in the commission of the crime of . . . robbery . . . or in any attempt to commit such." Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-19(2)(e) (Supp.1985). Under Mississippi law, a participant in a robbery could be convicted of capital murder under the statute for a murder committed in the course of the robbery by an accomplice notwithstanding the defendant's own lack of intent that any killing take place, for "[i]t is . . . familiar law that when two or more persons act in concert, with a common design, in committing a crime of violence upon others, and a homicide committed by one of them is incident to the execution of the common design, both are criminally liable for the homicide." Price v. State, 362 So.2d 204, 205 (Miss.1978). In accordance with this doctrine of accomplice liability, the court instructed the jury at the conclusion of the guilt phase of Bullock's trial as follows:

"The Court instructs the Jury that if you believe from the evidence in this case, beyond a reasonable doubt that on September 21, 1978, in the First Judicial District of Hinds County, Mississippi, Crawford Bullock, Jr., was present, consented to, and encouraged the commission of a crime and thereby aided another individual, and that he, the said Crawford Bullock, Jr.; or the other, then and there did wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously take and carry away the personal property of another from the presence of Mark Dickson, and from his person, against his will, by violence to his person, to-wit [sic]; his billfold or one 1978 Thunderbird automobile then in his possession, then and in that event, the Defendant, Crawford Bullock, Jr. is guilty of robbery as if he had with his own hands committed the whole offense; and, if the Jury further finds from the evidence in this case, beyond a reasonable doubt, that on said date aforesaid, while engaged in the commission of the aforesaid robbery, if any, that the said Crawford Bullock, Jr., did alone, or while acting in consert [sic] with another, while present at said time and place by consenting to the killing of the said, Mark Dickson, and that the said Crawford Bullock, Jr., did any overt act which was...

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