HICKS V. OKLAHOMA, 447 U. S. 343 (1980)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hicks v. Oklahoma, 447 U.S. 343 (1980)

Hicks v. Oklahoma

No. 76885

Argued March 26, 1980

Decided June 16, 1980

447 U.S. 343


Upon the conviction of petitioner, a twice previously convicted felon, in an Oklahoma trial court, the jury imposed a 40-year sentence pursuant to instructions to do so under a provision of the state habitual offender statute mandating such a sentence. Thereafter, this provision was declared unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals in another case, but that court nevertheless affirmed petitioner's conviction and sentence, holding that he was not prejudiced by the impact of the invalid statute because his sentence was within the range of punishment that could have been imposed in any event.

Held: The State deprived petitioner of due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. Under Oklahoma statutes, a convicted defendant is entitled to have his punishment fixed by the jury, and the jury, if it had been correctly instructed, could have imposed any sentence of not less than 10 years. Thus, the possibility that the jury would have returned a sentence of less than 40 years is substantial, and it is incorrect to say that petitioner could not have been prejudiced by the instruction requiring imposition of a 40-year prison sentence. Petitioner's interest in the exercise of the jury's discretion in imposing punishment is not merely a matter of state procedural law, but is a liberty interest that the Fourteenth Amendment preserves against arbitrary deprivation by the State. And the argument that, in view of the Court of Criminal Appeals' statutory authority to revise judgents on appeal, petitioner had no absolute right to a sentence imposed by a jury, is unpersuasive. Pp. 447 U. S. 345-347.

Vacated and remanded.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 447 U. S. 347.

Page 447 U. S. 344

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