Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ayers: Catchall Instruction ok for Death Sentence

In Ayers v. Belmontes, No. 05-493 (Nov. 13, 2006), the Supreme Court held that there was no reasonable likelihood that jurors in the penalty phase of a capital case interpreted the court’s "catchall" instruction, which directed the jurors to consider "[a]ny other circumstance which extenuates the gravity of the crime" to preclude consideration of the petitioner’s evidence that he would lead a constructive life if incarcerated. The Court held that in light of the arguments of both defense counsel and the prosecution during the penalty phase regarding the petitioner’s potential for improvement, it was implausible that the jury would have understood the instruction to preclude its consideration of rehabilitation evidence. Consequently, the instruction was consistent with the constitutional right to present mitigating evidence in a capital proceeding.