Criminal Law Discussion

Pervis Tyrone Payne was convicted by a jury on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of assault with intent to commit murder in the first degree. He was sentenced to death for each of the murders and to 30 years in prison for the assault. The U.S. Supreme Court considers whether the Eighth Amendment bars the admission of victim impact evidence during the penalty phase of a capital trial. As a part of its opinion, the Court discusses the role of the doctrine of stare decisis when resolving current controversies in light of older precedents.

  • What does the Court mean when it says, “Stare decisis is not an inexorable command; rather, it ‘is a principle of policy and not a mechanical formula of adherence to the latest decision’”?
  • What would it mean for the American system of criminal justice if stare decisis actually were an “inexorable command” or “a mechanical formula of adherence to the latest decision”?
  • Should the doctrine of stare decisis apply differently in the highest court of a jurisdiction than in its lower courts?
  • What principles should guide the U.S. Supreme Court in deciding whether to adhere to one of its precedents?
  • Compare the Court’s decision in Payne with its ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003). Why did the Court follow precedent in Payne, but reverse it in Lawrence?

cite 3 references, 1 being a peer reviewed source. 800 word count. apa format

book: Schmalleger, F. & Hall, D.E. (2017). Criminal law today (6th ed.). NY: Prentice Hall/Pearson.

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