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Supreme Court Decision Update - Brewer v. Quarterman

250px-Kemmler_Chair.jpgBrewer v. Quarterman (PDF of the opinion) is a companion case to Abdul-Kabir and given that the same questions are presented, the only reason I can conclude as to why the two cases were not consolidated was because the Supreme Court hates me and wants me to have to do extra work.

QuizLaw Analysis: This is another mitigating evidence case, and well, Stevens pretty much says the same thing he did in Abdul-Kabir, only now he’s got the extra weight of Abdul-Kabir as precedent. So now, when he says “clearly established law,” he can cite from the law he just clearly established with the case he wrote right before this one. Ahoy! Fortunately, both Roberts’ and Scalia’s dissent were consolidated for both cases.

Well the facts are at least different, right? Yeah. Brewer committed murder during a robbery (as did Abdul-Kabir), but Brewer introduced different types of mitigating evidence, not justabout a terrible childhood, but also about bouts of depression, hospitalization, drug abuse, and father abuse. Unlike Abdul-Kabir, however, he didn’t introduce any expert testimony.

In this case, the exact same jury instructions were given as in Abdul-Kabir, (did he deliberately murder the victim and is he a future threat of violence?) only this time, the prosecutor not only said that the sentencing jury could only consider the facts, but specifically said “[y]ou don’t have the power to say whether [Brewer] lives or dies. You answer the questions according to the evidence, mu[ch] like you did at the guilt or innocences [sic]. That’s all.”

The jury answered in the affirmative and Brewer was sentenced to death.

But, really — what is the difference between this case and Abdul-Kabir? Honestly, the only relevant difference is that Abdul-Kabir, in addition to testimony from his family, also introduced expert testimony. Brewer did not. However, while repeating his line of reasoning in Abdul-Kabir, Stevens also adds here that “the question of whether mitigation evidence could have been considered by the jury is [not] a matter of quantity, degree, or immutability.”

In other words, Stevens is saying that it doesn’t matter how much mitigating evidence you have, the amount must be given full effect and the jury still must have a “vehicle for expressing its ‘reasoned moral response’ to” mitigating evidence. Here, as in Abdul-Kabir, the jury instructions did not allow the jury to make a decision in a “reasoned, moral way.”