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Should Jurors be Informed About Parole Eligibility in Death Penalty Cases? An Analysis of Kelly v. South Carolina

NCJ Number
The Prison Journal Volume: 84 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2004 Pages: 395-410
Scott Vollum; Rolando V. del Carmen; Dennis R. Longmire
Rosemary L. Gido
Date Published
September 2004
16 pages
This article examines the implications and ramifications of the controversial 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelly v. South Carolina entitling a defendant to a jury instruction regarding parole eligibility when the only alternative to a death sentence is life without parole and the implication of future dangerousness is present.
In the 1994 U.S. Supreme Court case of Simmons v. South Carolina, the Court held that, when a defendant’s future dangerousness is at issue and the only alternative to a death sentence is life in prison without parole, due process requires that the defendant be allowed to have the jury informed through the trial judge’s instructions about parole ineligibility. In 2002, the Court revisited the State’s attempt to keep a defendant’s parole eligibility out of the jury’s sentencing considerations in the case of Kelly v. South Carolina. The Kelly case applied the Simmons rule and potentially changed the face of the capital sentencing procedure in the United States. This article examines the Kelly decision. The article presents a discussion on the facts, background, and opinions of the case, as well as an analysis of the case. The Supreme Court’s decision in Kelly has wide-reaching significance for future death penalty case and applies broadly in capital cases in States where life without parole is the sole alternative to a death sentence. There are those that suggest that Kelly does not go far enough and that juries should always be informed of a defendant’s parole eligibility. Questions being asked include: (1) does the decision in Kelly go beyond the due process protections for the 14th amendment and its prior interpretation in other Supreme Court cases and (2) does it offer capital defendants necessary and justified procedural safeguards and fair sentencing? References


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