Payne v. Tennessee

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In Payne v. Tennessee, 501 U.S. 808 (1991), the U.S. Supreme Court allowed victim impact statements during the punishment phase of a capital murder case, such that the Court upheld the death penalty imposed by the jury after it heard a family member testify at sentencing about the impact of the crime. The crime was brutal murder of a woman and her child after the defendant had consumed alcohol, cocaine, and read pornography.

This 6-3 decision expressly overruled two decisions issued just a few years earlier, which had held "that the Eighth Amendment bars the admission of victim impact evidence during the penalty phase of a capital trial":

  • Booth v. Maryland, 482 U.S. 496 (1987)
  • South Carolina v. Gathers, 490 U.S. 805 (1989)

This decision is a good example of the U.S. Supreme Court rejecting stare decisis.

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