Brief Fact Summary. Defendant appealed from a death sentence, when it was determined by evidence that had been considered of his criminal record, because he was not given the opportunity for cross-examination.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Whether a defendant’s rights to due process have been violated when his criminal record is used against him as a means of enhancing his sentence.
A jury in New York State court found appellant guilty of murder in the first degree, and recommended life imprisonment. The trial judge imposed a sentence of death after considering additional information of the defendant’s criminal record. Williams sought an appeal on the basis that he was not given the opportunity for cross-examination or rebuttal.
Issue. Whether use of a defendant’s criminal record in sentencing is tantamount to a violation of their right to due process.
Held. Due process should not be considered a wall that is impenetrable by the evidentiary process that a judge must go through in determining sentencing. Affirmed.
Dissent. Points of Law - for Law School Success
The prevalent modern philosophy of penology is that the punishment should fit the offender and not merely the crime. View Full Point of Law
Justice Murphy, for the dissent, argues that due process accords a defendant a fair trial at every stage and, by including evidence of a criminal record at sentencing, without affording the defendant a means of rebuttal, the defendant is necessarily being deprived of that right. Discussion.
Due process is not a complete bar to the inclusion of evidence when it is to be considered by a Judge at the sentencing stage.