The Court, in other action on Tuesday, refused to give states new guidance on how a death-row inmate is to be judged mentally retarded and thus not subject to the death penalty. (Chester v. Texas, 06-1616).
Over the dissents of three Justices, the Court sent back to lower courts for reconsideration a new case testing what instructions must be given to a jury in a death penalty case to assure that they need not be unanimous in finding offsetting (mitigating) factors even though they must all agree on their ultimate punishment verdict. The case, Hudson v. Spisak (06-1535), also tested the standard for evaluating the effectiveness of a defense lawyer when trial strategy seems to work against the defendant’s interests. The case was returned to the Sixth Circuit Court for a new look under two prior precedents, Carey v. Musladin and Schriro v. Landrigan. Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens noted that they would have denied the petition.
The Court took no action on Tuesday on a plea to expand its review of the lethal injection procedure in capital punishment cases. The new case is Taylor v. Crawford (07-303). The Court was asked to expedite that petition and hear it along with Baze v. Reese (07-5439), granted on Sept. 25.