Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Drumbeat" of Victim's Survivors Requesting Death is Reversible Error

Todd v. Trammell, -- F.3d --, 2013 WL 5124331 (10th Cir. 9/16/13) - reversal of Oklahoma death penalty. Sentencing phase testimony of seven family members of victims that defendant should get the death penalty violated the Eighth Amendment. "This presentation of victim requests for the death penalty was not a one-off or a mere aside. It was a drumbeat." The error was not harmless because this was not a strong case for the death penalty and the evidence of guilt was far from overwhelming. The court rejects defendant's guilt phase arguments that he was not permitted to present a complete defense, that he was not permitted adequate cross-examination of one witness, and several prosecutorial misconduct claims.