judge v. jury

McKinney v. Arizona is an excellent illustration of the complexity and disagreement on the Supreme Court over the death penalty. The Supreme Court held 5-4 that a court rather than a jury may reweigh improperly excluded mitigating evidence in a death penalty case on collateral review.

In 1992 James McKinney was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder. To receive the death penalty at least one aggravating circumstance must be found. A...

In McKinney v. Arizona James Erin McKinney wants the Arizona Supreme Court out of his death penalty case. More specifically, the Supreme Court will decide whether a jury rather than a judge must weigh the factors mitigating against imposing a death sentence when the law at the time he was convicted allowed a judge to weigh mitigating factors. The Court also has agreed to decide whether a trial court rather than an appellate court must correct the failure to weigh relevant mitigating factors.

A jury found McKinney guilty of first-degree murder related to two separate burglaries and murders committed in 1991. McKinney had PTSD from his “horrific” childhood but the Arizona Supreme Court disallowed the sentancer to consider non-statutory mitigating evidence (including family background and mental condition) unconnected to the crime. In 1996 the trial court found the evidence of PTSD to be unconnected to the crime and sentenced McKinney to death.