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Supreme Court hears PA death penalty case

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard arguments Tuesday in Rompilla v. Beard [Duke Law backgrounder], 04-5462 [Supreme Court docket], a PA case that involves jury instructions for cases involving the death penalty. Rompilla, who was convicted of robbing, stabbing and setting on fire a bar owner in Allentown, PA, in 1988, argues his death sentence should be overturned because jurors were not advised that they could sentence him to life in prison without parole. Justices seemed divided during arguments today, with Justice O'Connor suggesting that the sentence would not rise to the level of unreasonableness necessary to overturn it. Thirty-three states allows sentences of life without parole, but only Pennsylvania will not inform jurors that a defendant will not be released if given such a sentence. Merit briefs in the case are available via the ABA. AP has more.

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