Saturday, March 25, 2006

Supreme Court to rehear death penalty case

Supreme Court to rehear death penalty case

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court said Friday that it would hear arguments a second time before ruling on the constitutionality of a Kansas death penalty law, apparently so new Justice Samuel Alito can break a tie.

The case is the second one that deadlocked the court following Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement in late January. The other one involves government whistle-blowers.

Justices heard arguments on Dec. 7 in the Kansas case, which involves rules for how juries weigh evidence for and against the death penalty.

The 1994 law says if the evidence for and against imposing a death sentence is equal, Kansas juries must impose death instead of life in prison. The state Supreme Court struck it down, invalidating the death sentences of six convicted killers.

The Supreme Court did not say when a new argument would be scheduled.

Alito could vote differently than O'Connor would have in the case.

O'Connor was a swing vote in death penalty cases, sometimes joining the four more liberal members in throwing out death sentences.

Fifteen states had filed friend-of-the-court briefs, predicting that a ruling against Kansas would require states with capital punishment to set up special systems for juries to weigh evidence at sentencing.

The case is Kansas v. Marsh, 04-1170.

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