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McCleskey v. Kemp

Citation. McCleskey v. Kemp, 481 U.S. 279, 107 S. Ct. 1756, 95 L. Ed. 2d 262, 55 U.S.L.W. 4537 (U.S. Apr. 22, 1987)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Petitioner was convicted of robbery. He brought forth a study to show that his Eight and Fourteenth Amendment rights had been violated because he was black.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

“It is the ultimate duty of court to determine on a case-by-case basis whether [the] laws [of the states] are applied consistently with the Constitution.”


Petitioner McCleskey, along with three accomplices, carried out a robbery. A police officer answering the silent alarm was shot and killed. Ballistics showed that McCleskey was in possession of the gun that killed the cop. McCleskey was black, the officer was white. In the course of his appeals, McCleskey proffered the “Baldus” study, which purported to show a disparity in the imposition of the death sentence in Georgia based on race.


“[W]hether a complex statistical study that indicates a risk that racial considerations enter into capital sentencing determinations proves that petitioner McClesky’s capital sentence is unconstitutional under the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment.”


No. The Supreme Court of the United States was unpersuaded by McClesky’s arguments based on the Baldus study.
McCleskey first argued that Georgia law violated the Equal Protection Clause. “[T]o prevail under the Equal Protection Clause, McCleskey must prove that the decisionmakers in his case acted with discriminatory purpose.” His sole evidence was the Baldus study. While the Supreme Court had been willing to consider statistical evidence before, the Supreme Court held that in the present case and others like it, the decision was made by a “unique” jury. Further, “the State ha[d] no practical opportunity to rebut the Baldus study.” Finally, the Supreme Court concluded that the “[i]mplementation of.

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