Neelley v. Alabama, 88-5806

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtMARSHALL
Citation102 L.Ed.2d 810,109 S.Ct. 821,488 U.S. 1020
PartiesJudith Ann NEELLEY v. ALABAMA
Docket NumberNo. 88-5806,88-5806
Decision Date09 January 1989

488 U.S. 1020
109 S.Ct. 821
102 L.Ed.2d 810
Judith Ann NEELLEY



No. 88-5806.

Supreme Court of the United States

January 9, 1989

On petition for writ of certiorari to the Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice MARSHALL, with whom Justice BRENNAN joins, dissenting.

Adhering to my view that the death penalty is in all circumstances cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, see Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 231, 96 S.Ct. 2909, 2973, 49 L.Ed.2d 859 (1976) (MARSHALL, J., dissenting); Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, 314, 92 S.Ct. 2726, 2764, 33 L.Ed.2d 346 (1972) (MARSHALL, J., concurring), I would grant the petition for certiorari and vacate the death sentence in this case. Even if I did not hold this view, I would grant the petition to determine the applicable standard for reviewing Brady violations in the sentencing phase of a capital trial.


Petitioner Judith Ann Neelley was convicted of the capital offense of murder during a kidnaping. She did not deny that she had kidnaped and killed the victim. She testified, however, that she had acted at the direction and under the control of her husband, Alvin Neelley, who, petitioner contended, had physically and sexually abused her. Petitioner claimed that she was willing to do anything to avoid further abuse. A clinical psychologist

Page 1021

who had examined Neelley testified that she " 'probably fits the battered women's syndrome to the most severe extent that [she had] seen.' " The psychologist noted that " 'Alvin's mental state was substituted' " for petitioner's so that she had " 'no intents of her own.' " Neelley v. State, 494 So.2d 669, 681 (Ala.Crim.App.1985).

To substantiate her defense further, petitioner's attorney sought disclosure of evidence seized by investigators from her mobile home—in particular, several letters petitioner sent to her husband. These letters contained references to her husband's "hypnotizing eyes" and the fact that petitioner had been hearing her husband's voice by mental telepathy. One letter also contained the suggestion that petitioner believed her letters might lead her husband to kill her. The prosecution denied that it had such letters and the trial court denied petitioner's request. The jury subsequently imposed a sentence of life without parole. Although the trial judge found that petitioner "was substantially influenced by her husband," he overruled the jury and sentenced petitioner to death. Id., at 693.

After petitioner's conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal, Ex parte Neelley, 494 So.2d 697 (1986), her attorney learned that the investigator who had seized the letters did not deliver...

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