The Retroactivity of Hurst v. Florida, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016) to Death-Sentenced Prisoners on Collateral Review
Southern Illinois University Law Journal, Forthcoming
37 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2016
Date Written: November 14, 2016
In Apprendi v. New Jersey the United States Supreme Court established that any finding that increases the maximum sentence to which a defendant may be sentenced is an element of the offense that must be found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Applying that concept in Hurst v. Florida, the United States Supreme Court found that Florida’s death-sentencing scheme, which required a judge rather than the jury to make the ultimate factual findings for imposition of a death sentence, unconstitutional holding that “[t]he Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death.”
Hurst left no indication as to whether its holding applies retroactively to death-sentenced individuals seeking post-conviction relief. In federal-habeas review and in some states’ post-conviction review processes, this inquiry centers on applying the federal-retroactivity analysis announced in Teague v. Lane. In Schriro v. Summerlin, the Supreme Court, applying Teague, found that Ring v. Arizona, often considered Hurst’s predecessor case, was not retroactive on collateral review. Summerlin, however, does not settle the matter of Hurst’s retroactivity. First, Hurst’s holding included a proof-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt issue that was not present in Summerlin, and the Supreme Court has traditionally given retroactive application to pre-Teague proof-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt cases. Second, state courts, even those that look to Teague for their retroactivity analyses, are not bound by the federal Teague decisions and are therefore not bound by the jury-trial retroactivity portion of Summerlin. Third, the Court’s application of Teague to Miller v. Alabama in Montgomery v. Louisiana indicates that the United States Supreme Court’s reluctance to hold cases retroactive under Teague may be eroding or that the Court is considering retroactivity under a contextual approach.
This article argues that Hurst is retroactive under Teague to all death-sentenced inmates seeking post-conviction relief. In the first section, this article examines Hurst’s predecessor cases of Apprendi and Ring. In the second section, this article examines Florida’s death-sentencing scheme and the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Hurst. In the third section, this article applies the Teague analysis to Hurst. In sum, Hurst is retroactive on collateral review under a traditional Teague analysis. Recent Supreme Court precedent, however, indicates that the Court’s reluctance to hold new rules retroactive under Teague is eroding or the Court is recognizing “constitutional difference” in its analysis.
Keywords: Hurst, Ring, Teague, Apprendi, capital sentencing, death penalty, retroactivity
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