Ruling that Alcoholism and Intoxication Do Not Require Special Capital Sentencing Jury Instruction Identifying Them as Mitigating Factors Not Disturbed

Harris v. Cockrell, 313 F.3d 238 (5th Cir. 2002), cert. denied, 123 S. Ct. 1576 (2003)

The Supreme Court declined to review a Fifth Circuit ruling that upheld the capital sentence of a Texas man.  The defendant argued in part that the trial court was required to identify alcoholism or evidence of intoxication at the time of the offense as mitigating factors during the sentencing hearing. The Fifth Circuit concluded that neither constituted a "uniquely severe permanent handicap[ ] with which the defendant was burdened through no fault of his own," which would have required a special jury instruction under the Supreme Court's opinion in Penry v. Lynaugh (1989). The Fifth Circuit also determined the jury was able to give mitigating effect to evidence of the defendant's alcoholism under jury instructions pertaining to deliberateness and future dangerousness and to evidence of the defendant's intoxication through the instruction on deliberateness...

Found in DMHL Volume 23 Issue 1