HOPPER V. EVANS, 456 U. S. 605 (1982)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hopper v. Evans, 456 U.S. 605 (1982)

Hopper v. Evans

No. 80-1714

Argued March 24, 1982

Decided May 24, 1982

456 U.S. 605


Respondent was convicted in an Alabama state court of the capital offense of an intentional killing during a robbery, and was sentenced to death. At the time of respondent's trial, an Alabama statute precluded jury instructions on lesser included offenses in capital cases. The conviction and sentence were affirmed on automatic appeal. Subsequently, habeas corpus proceedings were brought in Federal District Court seeking to have the conviction set aside on the ground, inter alia, that respondent had been convicted and sentenced under a statute that unconstitutionally precluded consideration of lesser included offenses. The District Court denied relief. Pending an appeal, the Alabama statute precluding lesser included offense instructions in capital cases was invalidated in Beck v. Alabama, 447 U. S. 625. The Court of Appeals then reversed the District Court, concluding that Beck v. Alabama meant that the Alabama preclusion clause so "infected" respondent's trial that he must be retried so that he might have the opportunity to introduce evidence of some lesser included offense.

Held: The Alabama preclusion clause did not prejudice respondent in any way, and he is not entitled to a new trial, where his own evidence negates the possibility that a lesser included offense instruction might have been warranted. The Court of Appeals misread Beck v. Alabama, which held that due process requires that a lesser included offense instruction be given only when the evidence warrants such an instruction. Here, the evidence not only supported the claim that respondent intended to kill the victim, but affirmatively negated any claim that he did not intend to kill the victim. Accordingly, an instruction on the offense of unintentional killing was not warranted. Pp. 456 U. S. 610-614.

628 F.2d 400 and 639 F.2d 221, reversed.

BURGER, C.J.,delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, REHNQUIST, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, post, p. 456 U. S. 614.

Page 456 U. S. 606

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