Snider v. Peyton, 9742.

Decision Date28 January 1966
Docket NumberNo. 9742.,9742.
Citation356 F.2d 626
PartiesFrank Jimmy SNIDER, Jr., Appellant, v. C. C. PEYTON, Superintendent of the Virginia State Penitentiary, Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit

Harvey S. Lutins, Roanoke, Va. (Honeyman & Lutins, Roanoke, Va., on brief), for appellant.

Reno S. Harp, III, Asst. Atty. Gen. of Virginia (Robert Y. Button, Atty. Gen. of Virginia, on brief), for appellee.

Before HAYNSWORTH, Chief Judge, and SOBELOFF and BOREMAN, Circuit Judges.

HAYNSWORTH, Chief Judge:

This Virginia prisoner under sentence of death for rape comes again before us.1 This time he contends that his execution would amount to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which reflects the substance of the Eighth Amendment. The contention is buttressed by the opinion of Mr. Justice Goldberg, joined by Mr. Justice Douglas and Mr. Justice Brennan, dissenting from the denial of certiorari earlier sought by Snider to a judgment of the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia and by one Rudolph who sought certiorari to the Supreme Court of Alabama to review a similar question.2 It is amplified by a discussion of the materials considered by Mr. Justice Goldberg and others of similar import.

Under the circumstances, we think we have no real discretion to consider the question tendered. This is one of the two cases in which the identical question was presented to the Supreme Court and rejected when it denied certiorari over the explicit objection of three of its members. Each of the other members of the Court evidently felt that this was not an appropriate case in which to consider the question which bothered Mr. Justice Goldberg or they thought there was no substance in the questions Mr. Justice Goldberg would have had the court hear and determine.

Since Snider first posed the question to the Supreme Court and had it rejected, we have had a similar question presented to us in another case.3 We declined to hold that the death penalty was an unconstitutionally excessive exaction for rape. The Supreme Court denied certiorari in that case.4

None of this means, of course, that in a particular case one properly convicted of rape might not be held to have been wrongfully sentenced to death when constitutional standards are applied, or that the Supreme Court might not so hold when a proper vehicle for such a holding is presented to it. There is extreme variation in the degree of culpability of rapists. If one were sentenced to death upon conviction of rape of an adult under circumstances lacking great aggravation, the Supreme Court might well find it an appropriate case to consider the constitutional question tendered to us. Even an inferior court such as ours might find the question not foreclosed to it if the actual and potential harm to the victim was relatively slight.

This is not such a case, however. While conceivably the Supreme Court might reconsider its refusal to adjudicate the question in this very case, it is not without aggravation. The victim here was a nine year old child. She suffered substantial injuries which required her hospitalization. Her life was not taken, but it arguably may be said that it was in danger when her injuries are considered in the light of the rapist's apparent lack of any modicum of compassion or of restraint. The psychological harm done a child of tender years when subjected to such a searing experience may be heavier by far than the physical.

While we might under other circumstances, therefore, consider the constitutional question open to us, we do not feel it is open here. This is so because of the combination of the circumstances that Snider's culpability is far from minimal and that the Supreme Court has looked at his case and declined to consider this contention.5

There is another matter, however, which, in our opinion, requires that the case be remanded.

It is contended that Snider is now insane and should not be executed on that account. The state court...

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6 cases
  • Ralph v. Warden, Maryland Penitentiary
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • December 11, 1970
    ...with the contention that the death penalty is unconstitutionally disproportionate to the crime of rape, we noted in Snider v. Peyton, 356 F.2d 626, 627 (4th Cir. 1966): "There is extreme variation in the degree of culpability of rapists. If one were sentenced to death upon conviction of rap......
  • Coker v. Georgia
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 29, 1977
    ...or the effect upon the victim. I dissent because I am not persuaded that such a bright line is appropriate. As noted in Snider v. Peyton, 356 F.2d 626, 627 (CA4 1966), '(t)here is extreme variation in the degree of culpability of rapists.' The deliberate viciousness of the rapist may be gre......
  • Hart v. Coiner
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • July 13, 1973
    ...and gravity of an offense, courts have repeatedly emphasized the element of violence and danger to the person. E. g., Snider v. Peyton, 356 F.2d 626, 627 (4th Cir. 1966); see Rudolph v. Alabama, 375 U. S. 889, 84 S.Ct. 155, 11 L.Ed.2d 119 (1963) (Goldberg, J., dissenting from a denial of ce......
  • State v. Telsee
    • United States
    • Louisiana Supreme Court
    • January 10, 1983
    ...and gravity of an offense, the courts have repeatedly emphasized the element of violence and danger to the person. E.g. Snider v. Peyton, 356 F.2d 626, 627 (4th Cir.1966); see Rudolph v. Alabama, 375 U.S. 889, 84 S.Ct. 155, 11 L.Ed.2d 119 (1963) (Goldberg, J., dissenting from a denial of ce......
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