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Case Basics
Docket No. 
(Argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae)
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
Facts of the Case 

Following his conviction for first-degree murder, and subsequent imposition of a death sentence, Roberts challenged the constitutionality of Louisiana's death penalty scheme. This scheme mandated the death penalty's imposition, regardless of any mercy recommendation, whenever the jury found that the defendant demonstrated a specific intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm while in the commission of at least one of five different narrowly defined types of homicide. The sentencing scheme also required juries, in all first- degree murder cases, to be instructed on the lesser charges of manslaughter and second degree murder even if no evidence existed to support such verdicts.

This case is one of the five "Death Penalty Cases" along with Gregg v. Georgia, Jurek v. Texas, Proffitt v. Florida, and Woodson v. North Carolina.


Does Louisiana's death-penalty sentencing scheme violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments' safeguards against arbitrary and capricious death penalty impositions?

Decision: 5 votes for Roberts, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Amendment 8: Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Yes. By mandating the death penalty's imposition for certain crimes, Louisiana's sentencing scheme fails to afford juries the constitutionally required opportunity to consider any mitigating factors presented either by the circumstances of the crime or the individual offender's character. The Supreme Court also held that by requiring jurors to be instructed on the lesser charges of manslaughter and second-degree murder, even if no evidence exits to support such verdicts, Louisiana's sentencing scheme encourages them to disregard their oaths by recommending a verdict for a lesser offense whenever they feel that the death penalty is inappropriate.

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ROBERTS v. LOUISIANA. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <>.
ROBERTS v. LOUISIANA, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 25, 2015).
"ROBERTS v. LOUISIANA," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015,