Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 April 2022
Argued October 15, 1986.Decided April 22, 1987.
Rehearing Denied June 8, 1987.
BARNES, J. delivered the opinion of the Court. Powell, J. joined in all but Part II. Rehnquist J. filed a dissenting opinion, in which O’Connor, Scalia, and White joined.
Defendant McCleskey filed a writ of habeas corpus in the Northern District of Georgia challenging a 1979 murder conviction and death sentence imposed in Fulton County, Georgia. The petition, which the District Court and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied, questions whether statistical evidence from research studies that strongly suggest racial considerations factor into capital sentencing jury deliberations, provides a basis to determine the petitioner’s sentence was unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment or Fourteenth Amendment. We now reverse those decisions based on empirical data strongly corroborating a significant risk exists that McCleskey’s sentence involved unconstitutional race discrimination in violation of both the Eighth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment.