PATTERSON v. SOUTH CAROLINA

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJustia & Oyez
Citation471 U.S. 1036
Decision Date01 January 1985

471 U.S. 1036

Wardell PATTERSON, Jr., petitioner,
v.
SOUTH CAROLINA
No. 84-5843

Paul F. KOON, petitioner,
v.
SOUTH CAROLINA
No. 84-5850

Supreme Court of the United States

April 15, 1985


On petitions for writs of certiorari to the Supreme Court of South Carolina.

The petitions for writs of certiorari are denied.

Justice MARSHALL, with whom Justice BRENNAN joins, dissenting.

In spite of this Court's repeated declarations that a capital " 'sentencer . . . not be precluded from considering, as a mitigating factor, any aspect of a defendant's character . . . that the

Page 471 U.S. 1036 , 1037

defendant proffers as a basis for a sentence less than death,' " Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104, 110, 874 (1982) ( quoting Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586, 604, 2964d 973 (1978)), the South Carolina Supreme Court has determined that evidence of a capital defendant's likely nondangerousness within a prison environment is legally irrelevant to the capital sentencer's choice between death or life in prison. In these cases, the petitioners were sentenced to death. They had offered such evidence in mitigation of death but were denied the opportunity of submitting the evidence to their sentencing juries.

The death sentences in these cases were imposed in glaring violation of two lines of this Court's capital sentencing jurisprudence. First, and most obviously, the sentences are contrary to the Lockett-Eddings line of authority, which makes unmistakably clear that it is for the sentencer to determine the weight to be given to proffered evidence of mitigation. Second, they are equally in conflict with those decisions of this Court that make equally clear that the question of a capital defendant's future dangerousness is a legitimate penological concern relevant to a capital sentencing hearing. See California v. Ramos, 463 U.S. 992, 1001-1003, 3453-3454 (1983); Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U.S. 880, 896-905, 3396-3401 (1983); Jurek v. Texas, 428 U.S. 262, 274-276, 2957-2958 ( 1976).

While this latter group of cases affirmed the penological relevance of future dangerousness in contexts in which the State urged it as a factor in aggravation, the hitherto relevant factor of future dangerousness cannot become suddenly and cruelly "irrelevant" as a matter of law when a defendant wishes to assert its absence as a factor in mitigation. As was declared in a precursor to Lockett and Eddings, "a jury must be allowed to consider on the basis of all relevant evidence not only why a death sentence should be imposed, but also why it should not be imposed." Jurek v. Texas, supra, at 271. Rather than allow Lockett and Eddings to be eroded through such a cruelly inequitable view of relevance, I would grant these petitions. [Footnote 1]

Page 471 U.S. 1036 , 1038

I

At the time of the sentencing hearings in question the South Carolina Supreme Court's view of the relevance of predictive evidence as to a defendant's future non-dangerousness in a prison environment was clear:

    "The penalty phase of a capital murder case is concerned with the existence or nonexistence of mitigating or aggravating circumstances involved in or arising out of the murder, not the convicted murderer's adaptability to prison life. The jury is concerned with the circumstances of the crime and the characteristics of the individual defendant as they bear logical relevance to the crime . . . . In Lockett v. Ohio, . . . cited as controlling in Eddings v. Oklahoma, . . . the United States Supreme Court retained the court's traditional authority to exclude irrelevant evidence which did not bear on a defendant's character, prior record, or the circumstances of his offense. We conclude that the evidence of appellant's future conformity to prison life was properly excluded as irrelevant." State v. Koon, 278 S.C. 528, 536, 537, 298 S.E.2d 769, 773-774 (1982) ( hereinafter Koon I).2

At Koon's hearing below, his counsel sought to develop a number of avenues of mitigating evidence. First, he sought to call two prison officials to testify as to petitioner's excellent record in prison and his demonstrated ability to adapt to prison life. Record in No. 84-5850, pp. 922-927. Second, he sought to call psychiatric experts to testify as to Koon's mental condition. Those psychiatrists had examined him and were prepared to testify that he suffered from a severe mental disorder, and that partly as a result of that disorder he was extremely capable of

Page 471 U.S. 1036 , 1039

adapting to prison life. They would have testified that, within the highly structured and regulated context of life in prison, Koon would be unlikely to present any problem of future dangerousness, and that indeed, he might live a more productive life than he was capable of living outside of confinement. Id., at 925-928. See also id., at 1062-1066.3

The trial court, relying on Koon I, excluded all of the prison officers' testimony, and all psychiatric evidence of Koon's ability to adapt to prison life or of his likely future nondangerousness within the prison environment. Although Koon was allowed to

Page 471 U.S. 1036 , 1040

call a psychiatric witness to testify about his general psychiatric makeup, questions concerning adaptability or future nondangerousness were prohibited. The witness did briefly refer to petitioner's successful adaptation to prison life in responding to a question only tangentially related to that issue; petitioner's counsel was obviously unable to either develop this issue to any extent or to draw the jury's attention to it in his summation.

In Patterson, the facts are quite similar. Petitioner proffered evidence from prison authorities that he had an exemplary prison record during the period of almost three years since his earlier trial, and proffered evidence from a psychiatrist that individuals exhibiting a personality pattern similar to petitioner's "usually make a satisfactory adjustment to prison life" so that the likelihood of future violence by such persons "diminishes with the passing of time." Record in No. 84-5843, p. 1442. The trial court excluded all this evidence as irrelevant under the authority of Koon I. Thus, the sentencing jury was given no opportunity at all to consider either petitioner's behavior in prison or the issue of petitioner's likely future nondangerousness within a prison environment.

On appeal, both of these petitioners'...

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11 practice notes
  • State v. Shafer, No. 25120.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 8, 2000
    ...refusal to charge general deterrence need not be considered); State v. Patterson, 285 S.C. 5, 327 S.E.2d 650 (1984), cert. denied 471 U.S. 1036, 105 S.Ct. 2056, 85 L.Ed.2d 329 (1985), overruled on other grounds State v. Torrence, 305 S.C. 45, 406 S.E.2d 315 (1991) (refusal to charge general......
  • State v. Torrence, No. 23403
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 1, 1989
    ...cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1120, 105 S.Ct. 2368, 86 L.Ed.2d 266 (1985); State v. Koon, 285 S.C. 1, 328 S.E.2d 625 (1984), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1036, 105 S.Ct. 2056, 85 L.Ed.2d 329 (1985); State v. Lucas, 285 S.C. 37, 328 S.E.2d 63 (1985), cert. denied, 472 U.S. 1012, 105 S.Ct. 2714, 86 L.Ed.2......
  • Moore v. Stirling, 28088
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 6, 2022
    ...405 S.E.2d 377 (1991), 5 cert. denied, 502 U.S. 1103 (1992); and State v. Patterson, 285 S.C. 5, 327 S.E.2d 650 (1984), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1036 (1985)). Moore contends his death sentence is disproportionate under any meaning of the term "similar cases" and should, therefore, be vacated ......
  • Moore v. Stirling, Appellate Case No. 2020-001519
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 6, 2022
    ...denied, 502 U.S. 1103, 112 S.Ct. 1193, 117 L.Ed.2d 434 (1992) ; and State v. Patterson, 285 S.C. 5, 327 S.E.2d 650 (1984), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1036, 105 S.Ct. 2056, 85 L.Ed.2d 329 (1985) ).Moore contends his death sentence is disproportionate under any meaning of the term 871 S.E.2d 428 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
11 cases
  • State v. Shafer, No. 25120.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 8, 2000
    ...refusal to charge general deterrence need not be considered); State v. Patterson, 285 S.C. 5, 327 S.E.2d 650 (1984), cert. denied 471 U.S. 1036, 105 S.Ct. 2056, 85 L.Ed.2d 329 (1985), overruled on other grounds State v. Torrence, 305 S.C. 45, 406 S.E.2d 315 (1991) (refusal to charge general......
  • State v. Torrence, No. 23403
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 1, 1989
    ...cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1120, 105 S.Ct. 2368, 86 L.Ed.2d 266 (1985); State v. Koon, 285 S.C. 1, 328 S.E.2d 625 (1984), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1036, 105 S.Ct. 2056, 85 L.Ed.2d 329 (1985); State v. Lucas, 285 S.C. 37, 328 S.E.2d 63 (1985), cert. denied, 472 U.S. 1012, 105 S.Ct. 2714, 86 L.Ed.2......
  • Moore v. Stirling, 28088
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 6, 2022
    ...405 S.E.2d 377 (1991), 5 cert. denied, 502 U.S. 1103 (1992); and State v. Patterson, 285 S.C. 5, 327 S.E.2d 650 (1984), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1036 (1985)). Moore contends his death sentence is disproportionate under any meaning of the term "similar cases" and should, therefore, b......
  • Moore v. Stirling, Appellate Case No. 2020-001519
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 6, 2022
    ...denied, 502 U.S. 1103, 112 S.Ct. 1193, 117 L.Ed.2d 434 (1992) ; and State v. Patterson, 285 S.C. 5, 327 S.E.2d 650 (1984), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1036, 105 S.Ct. 2056, 85 L.Ed.2d 329 (1985) ).Moore contends his death sentence is disproportionate under any meaning of the term 871 S.E.2d 428 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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