This is an appeal from a conviction of first degree murder and a sentence of death. The principal issue on review of the guilt phase of the trial is the sufficiency of the evidence of aggravated arson as an essential element of the offense. R.S. 14:30. The principal issues on review of the penalty phase involve (1) admission into evidence of defendant's indictment for second degree murder in an unrelated incident and his subsequent plea to involuntary manslaughter, (2) the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the aggravating circumstances found by the jury, and (3) the prosecutor's closing argument.
A series of bizarre and frightful events, which led to the death of Fran Arwood, occurred at the residence where defendant was living with Cynthia Shano and Ms. Shano's two young sons. Ms. Arwood was divorced from Ms. Shano's stepbrother, but remained friendly with her and often helped her by taking care of the children. Defendant had lived with Ms. Shano in Texas for several months and had professed an intention to marry her.
On September 28, 1979, Ms. Arwood was staying with Ms. Shano and helping with the children while Ms. Shano's mother was in the hospital. Defendant and Ms. Shano went out for the evening. Defendant returned at about 7:00 o'clock the next morning with Charles Lane, whom defendant had apparently met in a barroom and had invited to the residence for more drinking and talking.
Defendant and Lane continued their drinking while listening to records. At some time during the morning, Ms. Shano left to check on her hospitalized mother. When she returned, she noticed that Ms. Arwood was bleeding from her mouth. Defendant told Ms. Shano that he had struck Ms. Arwood after an argument in which he accused Ms. Arwood of giving some pills to one of the children.
The reasons behind the events that followed are difficult to discern accurately from the record and more difficult to comprehend. However, defendant does not vigorously contest the fact that Ms. Arwood in his presence was beaten, scalded with boiling water and burned with lighter fluid, or that the ferocity of the attack and the severity of the injuries caused her to die several weeks later without ever regaining consciousness.
After the original altercation during Ms. Shano's absence, defendant and Lane, for some unexplained reason, decided that Ms.
Acting in concert, defendant and Lane dragged Ms. Arwood by the hair to the bathroom, stripped her naked, and literally kicked her into the bathtub, where she was subjected to dunking, scalding with hot water, and additional beatings with their fists.
Defendant and Lane dragged her from the bathroom into the living room, where they dropped her, face down, onto the floor. Defendant then beat her with a belt as she lay on the floor, while Lane kicked her. They then placed her on her back on a sofa bed in the living room. As Ms. Shano went to the bathroom, she overheard defendant say to Lane that he (defendant) would show Lane "just how cruel he (defendant) could be". When she reentered the living room, she was struck by the pungent smell of burning flesh. She then discovered that defendant had poured lighter fluid on Ms. Arwood's body (particularly on her torso and genital area) and had set the lighter fluid afire.
Then, displaying a callous disregard for the helpless (and mortally injured) victim, defendant and Lane continued to lounge about the residence listening to records and discussing the disposition of Ms. Arwood's body. Lane fell asleep next to the beaten and swollen body of the victim.
Shortly after noon, Ms. Shano's sister and nephew came to visit. When the nephew knocked insistently, defendant gave Ms. Shano the key to open the door, and she ran screaming to the safety of her relatives. Her excited ravings ("They've killed Fran and they're trying to kill me") were incomprehensible to her nephew and sister until they looked inside and saw the gruesome scene and Ms. Arwood's beaten and blistered body. They also saw defendant sitting with his feet propped up on the edge of the couch.
In the meantime, Ms. Shano called for police and emergency units. When the authorities arrived, they took Lane and defendant to jail, and rushed Ms. Arwood to a hospital, where she subsequently died.
The grand jury indicted both men for first degree murder. Lane was convicted in a separate trial and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Review of Guilt Phase
Defendant contends the evidence was insufficient to establish the essential elements of first degree murder.
R.S. 14:30, defining first degree murder, at the time of the offense provided in pertinent part:
Although defendant presented the testimony of laymen and psychiatrists regarding his allegedly intoxicated condition and its effect on his ability to form a specific intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm, the jury reasonably rejected the defense. There was ample evidence from the testimony of the arresting officer and Ms. Shano from which a rational juror could have found that defendant acted with specific intent, despite his excessive consumption of alcohol.
There was also ample evidence from which a rational juror could have concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant was engaged in the perpetration of aggravated arson.
At the sentencing hearing, both the state and defendant offered additional evidence.
Over defense objection, the state called a deputy prosecutor from Arkansas to present documentary evidence establishing the circumstances of defendant's prior indictment for second degree murder in the killing of a four-year-old child and his eventual plea to involuntary manslaughter. The records also revealed that the trial court was presented with the facts of the incident before accepting defendant's plea of guilty to involuntary manslaughter and sentencing him to serve three years in prison.
Defendant and his older sister both testified about defendant's unhappy childhood. Defendant's mother committed suicide shortly after the birth of defendant and a twin sister, when the older sister was only four years old. The circumstances forced the family to separate, and, according to defendant's sister, his father seemed to blame defendant for the family woes. He was extremely harsh and brutal with defendant.
Understandably, defendant began to run away at an early age. He was eventually institutionalized, but ran away from the state mental health facility. He lived with various relatives until he was about 17, when he left to begin a series of riverboat jobs.
Defendant also gave his version of the events leading to his prior conviction for involuntary manslaughter. In response to defendant's professions of accident and of love and affection for the child, the prosecutor cross-examined him about the cause of various injuries on the child's body and about a statement he gave to police admitting that he had whipped the child.
Despite the evidence offered in mitigation, the jury recommended the death penalty, relying on three aggravating circumstances: (1) that defendant was engaged in the commission of aggravated arson, (2) that the offense was committed in an especially cruel, atrocious and heinous manner, and (3) that defendant had previously been convicted of an unrelated murder.
Review of Penalty Phase
Because the jury recommended the death penalty, this court must review the record to determine that the prosecutor and the trial court adhered to the procedural protections outlined by the Legislature and that
Sufficiency of Evidence of Statutory Aggravating Circumstances
C.Cr.P. Art. 905.3 requires that the jury find beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of at least one of the statutory aggravating circumstances listed in C.Cr.P. Art. 905.4 before the jury can even consider recommendation of the death sentence. And Supreme Court Rule 28, § 1(b) requires that this court, on review for excessiveness, determine that the jury's finding was supported by the evidence.
The jury found the existence of three statutory aggravating circumstances. The evidence is clearly sufficient, as discussed earlier, to support the jury's finding with respect to the commission of an aggravated arson. The evidence also supports the jury's finding that the offense was committed in an especially cruel, atrocious and heinous manner.
Defendant argues, however, that every aggravating circumstance found by the jury must be supported by the evidence and that the evidence does not support a finding that defendant was previously convicted of an unrelated murder. See State v. Monroe, 397 So.2d 1258 (La.1981). The last portion of defendant's argument is correct, in that a finding of a conviction for an unrelated murder is not supported by a record which reflects only a conviction for involuntary manslaughter. State v. Culberth, 390 So.2d 847 (La.1980). However, C.Cr.P. Art. 905.3 only requires that the jury find the existence of one aggravating circumstance in order to consider recommending a sentence of death.
This court has upheld death sentences when only one of several aggravating circumstances found by the jury was supported by the evidence (as long as defendant was not unduly prejudiced by failure to comply with procedural safeguards or by the influence of arbitrary factors during the penalty phase, and as long as the death sentence was not otherwise excessive). State v. Martin, 376 So.2d 300 (La. 1979), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 998, 101 S.Ct. 540, 66 L.Ed.2d 297; State v. Monroe, above.
Thus, under Louisiana's statutory scheme, the jury at the penalty trial must in effect make two separate but closely related findings in order to recommend a death sentence. The jury must first find the existence of at least one statutory aggravating circumstance as a threshold requirement before even considering imposition of the death penalty. If an aggravating circumstance is found, then the jury must take into account any mitigating circumstances and must make a separate finding regarding whether the death penalty should be imposed, considering both the particular crime and the particular offender. If the jury recommends the death penalty, this court must review each of the two separate jury findings.
Here, the supported finding of the commission of aggravated arson fulfilled the requirement of C.Cr.P. Art. 905.3 and the review requirement of Supreme Court Rule 28, § 1(b) regarding a supported finding of the existence of at least one aggravating circumstance. The effect of a determination by this court that the evidence did not support the finding of an additional aggravating circumstance is a question which is more pertinent to the review of the jury's second finding—that is, the finding regarding the appropriateness of the death penalty for this particular crime and this particular murderer. We will address that question in the context of a discussion (in the next subsection) of whether evidence, which was offered in support of an unproved aggravating circumstance, introduced an arbitrary factor into the penalty phase which misdirected the jury's sentencing discretion. Passion, Prejudice or other Arbitrary Factors
The evidence offered in support of the unproved aggravating circumstance in this case consisted of the official records of the Arkansas circuit court and prison pertaining to defendant's conviction of involuntary manslaughter. Defendant objected to this evidence on the basis (1) that the documents were hearsay and were not properly authenticated and (2) that evidence of the indictment for second degree murder was inadmissible because only evidence of the conviction was admissible.
A review of the record reflects that the documents were properly certified and were also authenticated by the testimony of the deputy prosecuting attorney. They were identified as properly certified copies of original documents, which were official records of the circuit court and of the Arkansas State Prison.
Defendant's second ground for objection raises the question of what evidence is admissible in the penalty phase of the trial. C.Cr.P. Art. 905.2 declares that the hearing shall focus on the circumstances of the offense and propensities of the offender, but does not provide any specific rules regarding the admissibility of evidence at this unique type of hearing. At a sentencing hearing in a noncapital case (in which the judge will determine the sentence), many of the usual rules of evidence do not apply, because the postconviction focus on the appropriateness of sentence is vastly different from the preconviction focus on guilt or innocence. See Williams v. New York, 337 U.S. 241, 69 S.Ct. 1079, 93 L.Ed. 1337 (1949), which was cited in Gregg for the proposition that in "the determination of sentences, justice generally requires ... that there be taken into account the circumstances of the offense together with the character and propensities of the offender". 428 U.S. at 189, 96 S.Ct. at 2932.
The instant case presents the question of whether evidence of a prior unrelated conviction of involuntary manslaughter (which clearly is relevant to a focus on the character and propensities of the offender) is admissible in the prosecution's case in chief, before the defendant takes the stand or otherwise puts his character at issue.
We will not attempt in this decision to lay down detailed rules for admissibility of evidence in the penalty phase, but will address the issue only insofar as it is necessary to decide this case.
We hold that the evidence of the prior unrelated conviction of involuntary manslaughter was properly admitted, although the conviction did not qualify as an unrelated murder under C.Cr.P. Art. 905.4(c) and although defendant did not take any steps to place his character at
As to the evidence of an initial indictment for second degree murder (in the same incident), there was extensive testimony from both defendant and his sister concerning defendant's version of the incident. Even if the fact of an indictment for a greater offense (than the one to which defendant eventually pleaded) should have been excluded, the gravamen of the evidence was a presentation of the facts of the occurrence, and admission of the indictment was certainly not reversible error.
There is another factor in this case which we have considered, even though there was no contemporaneous objection, because of the possibility of prejudicial influence on the jury's recommendation of death. State v. Willie, 410 So.2d 1019 (La.1982). In the final closing argument, the district attorney alluded briefly to the possibility of pardon. In prior cases (decided after this trial), we have warned against such an argument, and we have ordered new penalty hearings in cases in which we concluded that the particular argument constituted an improper influence on the jury. See State v. Lindsey, 404 So.2d 466 (La.1981), and State v. Willie, above. We have never held, however, that an automatic reversal of the death penalty must follow the mere mention of the fact that R.S. 14:30's prohibition against probation or parole for one under sentence of life imprisonment does not exclude executive pardon. Each case must be decided on its own facts and circumstances.
Here, the cryptic and brief comment came in response to the defense attorney's final plea to the jury to spare defendant's life and to sentence him to the "living death of life imprisonment", which implied that defendant could never be released.
A strong admonition by the trial court, in which he instructed the jury not to consider the comments of either counsel regarding Lane's case, effectively prevented prejudice. The jury was clearly given the impression that defendant's case must be evaluated on its own merits, without regard to the sentence imposed on his original co-defendant.
Proportionality and Excessiveness of Sentence
Section 1, subsection (c) of Rule 28 requires this court to extend its review beyond the evidence submitted to the jury. We must, in effect, decide whether the jury's recommendation of the death sentence was disproportionate, reviewing both the facts presented to the jury and the other materials submitted to us on review. We must consider the recommendations of juries in similar cases (from the judicial district), as well as the character of the defendant and the nature of his crime.
This is the sixth death sentence recommended by a jury in Jefferson Parish since 1976. It is only the third death sentence from that parish which we have upheld.
As required by our rules, the district attorney has submitted information concerning all first degree murder prosecutions, including a brief description of the offense, the offender, and the disposition. A review of those cases illustrates the adage that no two cases are alike. (A brief description of each is included as part of an unpublished appendix.) In some, offenders, while engaged in robberies or burglaries, killed their victims or others who interrupted the commission of their crimes. In others, offenders killed out of anger at or hatred for the victim. In two cases, women were convicted for their part in schemes to kill their spouses.
The only thing which seems clear from a review of the cases presented to Jefferson Parish jurors is that they appear to recommend death in relatively few cases and only in those of an egregious nature. Certainly this case fits that description. Never before has this court been presented on appeal of a death sentence with such callous indifference to human suffering as was displayed here. After administering a savage beating, defendant sat comfortably listening to records, while his tormented victim lay dying before his eyes. Although defendant attempted to show that Lane was the principal aggressor, the jury obviously credited Ms. Shano's account which placed
Moreover, the superficial disparity between the sentences imposed on Lane and on defendant quickly disappears when one evaluates the culpability of the two men in this incident, as well as their individual backgrounds. Neither of the two juries, which separately heard the cases and made the recommendations, acted unreasonably. Two participants in the same murder can easily be viewed very differently for penalty purposes.
This murderer, a mature man of almost 30, was not under the domination of any other human being, nor did he play a minor role in the brutal slaying. Furthermore, unlike Lane, he had previously killed a helpless, weaker human being. His case is easily distinguishable from Lane's.
Defendant's only endeavor to present factors in mitigation was his presentation of his own version of the child's death and his heartrending account of a pitiful, deprived childhood. While the factors were properly considered by the jury and must be considered on appeal, they pale into insignificance when faced with the horrendous offense committed against a helpless young woman.
The value which society places on human life has led the Legislature to enact severe penalties for the unjustified killing of a human being. That same concern for the intrinsic worth of the life of the accused has also led courts and legislatures to erect carefully designed procedures which must be scrupulously followed before an accused's life may be taken by the state for his crime.
This court's function in reviewing a death penalty recommendation by a jury is not to sit as a subsequent sentencing panel, but to insure that the jury's recommendation was not influenced by arbitrary factors or improper considerations. The jury in this case was unanimously convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant committed first degree murder and that the circumstances warranted the imposition of the maximum penalty which may be imposed. We are convinced, on review of the record, that the jury's recommendation was not reached arbitrarily and was not based on improper considerations, and we have been shown no basis for overturning that recommendation on appeal.
Accordingly, defendant's conviction and sentence are affirmed.
DIXON, C.J., and DENNIS, J., concur with reasons.
CALOGERO, J., concurs for reasons assigned by DIXON, C.J.
DIXON, Chief Justice (concurring).
I respectfully concur.
C.Cr.P. 905.2 is ambiguous. We should not interpret it to permit the introduction of "character and propensit[y]" evidence except "according to the rules of evidence." C.Cr.P. 905.2. Here, however, the error of permitting evidence of bad character before character is placed at issue by defendant was harmless beyond reasonable doubt.
DENNIS, Justice, concurring in the result.
I concur in the result but strenuously disagree with the majority's unabashed disregard of the law and rules of evidence governing capital sentence hearings.
Code of Criminal Procedure article 905.2 clearly provides that "[t]he hearing shall be conducted according to the rules of evidence"
The majority is completely wrong in stating that art. 905.2 does not provide any specific rules regarding the admissibility of evidence at a capital sentence hearing. Art. 905.2 clearly states that the hearing shall be conducted according to the "rules of evidence" which obviously include those laws previously enacted by the legislature and probably encompass those rules previously adopted by this court. As any evidence scholar knows, the legislature has not yet enacted a comprehensive evidence code and our body of that law is inadequate and unworkable without the jurisprudentially developed rules.
In truth, the majority has ignored the sentencing procedure enacted by the legislature and is attempting to fashion a procedure more to its liking. Apparently, the majority prefers the procedure that was adopted by Texas as described by the Supreme Court in Jurek v. Texas 428 U.S. 262, 96 S.Ct. 2950, 49 L.Ed.2d 929 (1976). In a Jurek sentence proceeding, the jury is nearly always asked to make a finding on only one question not already answered at the guilt trial. That is, "whether there is a probability that the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society." See Black, Capital Punishment, the Inevitability of Caprice and Mistake 115 (2d ed. 1981). When this is the crucial question, perhaps a wide-open-no-holds-barred procedure, allowing any and all bad character evidence from the word go, is appropriate. But the Texas Jurek proceeding is quite different from the procedure established by Louisiana law under which the jury must find beyond a reasonable doubt that at least one statutory aggravating circumstance exists, and weigh against it any mitigating circumstances, before it may go on to unanimously recommend a sentence of death. Regardless of which procedure in our personal opinions is wiser, fairer, or more just, this court has no legitimate power to usurp the plenary will of the Legislature and reshape the statutory system according to its own specifications.
I find it quite disturbing also that the majority seeks to support its disregard of the law and rules of evidence by implying that there is no essential difference between a capital sentencing by a jury and a noncapital sentencing by a judge. Is the majority implying that this court considers the solemn protections with which the legislature earnestly has surrounded the imposition of our most severe penalty to be meaningless technicalities? That "many of the usual rules of evidence do not apply" even though the Legislature has said they must? If so, the majority's cavalier attitude toward the law enacted by the Legislature and the extremity and permanence of capital punishment is appalling.
The majority opinion is very unclear as to what "procedural safeguards ... (such as notice)" will be required in penalty hearings. See p. 103. It is hoped that the majority intends to apply the Prieur guidelines to capital punishment proceedings. It would seem that in the sentencing phase of a capital case most of all, a defendant is
In my opinion, the character of the defendant is not generally at issue ab initio in a capital sentencing hearing. Evidence relevant to an aggravating or mitigating circumstance is admissible throughout the proceeding. Unless it fits within this category, however, bad character evidence, including other crimes evidence, is admissible against the defendant only according to the rules of evidence. The opening sentence of C.Cr.P. art. 905.2, which states that the sentencing hearing shall focus on the circumstances of the offense and the character and propensities of the offender does not vitiate the meaning of the great number of detailed provisions which follow it. "Focus," when used as a verb means to concentrate or to converge. The introductory statement that the hearing shall concentrate on the defendant's character among other matters is not equivalent to saying that all character evidence shall be admissible. The remaining provisions of Art. 905.2 et seq. tell exactly how the hearing shall focus or concentrate on its subjects, and basically that is by following the rules of evidence, except that the introduction of all evidence relevant to aggravating or mitigating circumstances is permitted.
Additionally, I do not consider myself bound by any of the footnotes in the majority opinion. Footnotes numbers 12 and 13 particularly appear to be entirely unnecessary and seem to reach out to decide issues not before us. The statement that the finding of guilt "automatically" constitutes a finding of an aggravating circumstance in the penalty hearing is contrary to law. The jury must independently find at least one aggravating circumstance during the sentence hearing before it may consider the death penalty. C.Cr.P. art. 905.3. The elliptic statements regarding Zant v. Stephens, ___ U.S. ___, 102 S.Ct. 1856, 72 L.Ed.2d 222 (1982), and its possible relationship to our law are unclear, unwise, and unnecessary. Footnote Number 16 is an outright perversion of the law. It flatly states that the prohibition against other crimes evidence is not applicable in a penalty phase. Again, C.Cr.P. art. 905.2 clearly indicates to the contrary. It says that evidence relative to aggravating and mitigating circumstances shall be relevant irrespective of whether the defendant places his character at issue, which clearly indicates that outside this exception, the state cannot introduce such evidence until the defendant places his character or credibility at issue "according to the rules of evidence." Id.
Nonetheless, I concur in the result. I agree with the Chief Justice that the errors in introducing the bad character evidence were harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. I also concur only in the result for the additional reasons that I find the conviction of guilt to be supportable on a different basis than the majority and consider that another error in the penalty phase was also harmless error.
The first degree murder conviction is justified by the evidence which in my opinion proves that the defendant was a principal to the perpetration of aggravated rape during the criminal transaction.
The death penalty is warranted because the offense was committed in an especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel manner. Although I am uncertain that the evidence supports a finding that the offender was engaged in the perpetration of aggravated arson, and I am troubled by the jury's failure to find the perpetration or attempted perpetration of aggravated rape as an aggravating circumstance, I ultimately conclude that any error committed by the jury during the penalty hearing was harmless. This crime was so horrible and involved such pitiless and needless torture of the
I agree with the majority's statement at p. 106 of its opinion that this court does not sit as a subsequent sentencing panel. But a word of caution is necessary. By this, we do not mean that we have abandoned our constitutional function of reviewing death sentences to see if they constitute cruel, unusual or excessive punishment under the circumstances of the case. What is meant is that we do not formulate or impose sentences; we either affirm them or reverse them.
LEMMON, Justice, concurring in denial of rehearing.
On application for rehearing, defendant contends that the admission of evidence of nonstatutory aggravating circumstances violated his constitutional right by injecting arbitrary factors into the jury's exercise of sentencing discretion.
Evidence of defendant's prior conviction of involuntary manslaughter, although not constituting proof of a prior conviction of an unrelated murder, was admissible to prove the statutory aggravating circumstance that defendant had a substantial past history of criminal activity. C.Cr.P. 905.4(c). Competent evidence of a criminal conviction is clearly admissible in this regard, and such evidence is highly relevant to the central focus of the sentencing hearing on the character and propensities of the offender. C.Cr.P. Art. 905.2.
Moreover, C.Cr.P. Art. 905.2's provision that the sentencing hearing "shall be conducted according to the rules of evidence" obviously refers to the applicable rules of evidence. While R.S. 15:481 and 483 would have been applicable to exclude evidence of defendant's character in the guilt phase of the trial, those statutes are simply not applicable rules of evidence in the sentencing phase. The purpose of R.S. 15:481 and 483 is to insure that a conviction is based on the accused's guilt, rather than on his bad character. But once guilt has been validly determined, the purpose of those statutes has been served, and the statutes should not be applied to exclude competent evidence of bad character, when the focus of the hearing itself puts the defendant's character at issue. C.Cr.P. Art. 905.2. See Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 96 S.Ct. 2909, 49 L.Ed.2d 859, above.
There were also burn marks on the new sheets on the sofa bed as a result of the incident, and defendant's fingerprints were found on a can of lighter fluid.
Under statutes defining arson in terms of the burning of dwellings (at common law, arson was an offense against habitation), it was logical for courts to reason that the mere setting fire to "kindling" for the purpose of burning a house was not arson, unless the house itself was burned. See R. Perkins, Criminal Law, Ch. 3, § 2B and C (2d ed. 1969). However, when a statute (such as R.S. 14:51) is extremely broad with respect to the nature of the "thing" set afire, and the statute's focus is primarily on the creation of foreseeable risk of great harm to humans, the igniting of "kindling" or lighter fluid for the purpose of engulfing a human body (or part of a human body) in flames might suffice—as long as the endangerment element is satisfied.
Nevertheless, as stated above, resolution of that question is not required here, because defendant did set fire to bedclothes by pouring lighter fluid and igniting it, and that act endangered the victim's life.
There was no error, however, in the trial judge's instructing the jury regarding the elements of aggravated rape. The evidence justified an instruction on the essential elements of the offense, and the jury was capable of drawing reasonable inferences from the evidence based on the trial court's instructions.
Finally, the prosecutor's mention in closing argument (without contemporaneous objection) that there were two rapes, one of which was proved by the fact that Lane was alone in the bathroom with the victim for 10 to 20 minutes, was certainly not sufficiently prejudicial to warrant a reversal of the conviction.
The Arkansas prosecutor eventually accepted defendant's plea that the killing was committed "without malice" and without an intent to "produce death". See Section 41-2209, Arkansas Criminal Code. Defendant claimed that he was trying to discipline the child (who was allegedly "playing in her food") when the child's highchair fell over, causing her to hit her head on the concrete floor.
Finally, the use of statutory aggravating circumstances, which was approved in Gregg v. Georgia, above, as a method of channeling the jury's discretion in the determination of which first degree murderers are "death eligible", is particularly important in a capital sentencing scheme in which any intentional murder may be a capital offense. Unlike the Georgia statutory scheme (in which proof of a statutory aggravating circumstance in the penalty phase is a crucial consideration in the jury's determination of which first degree murderers should be punished by death), Louisiana's present capital sentencing procedure requires (as noted in Footnote 12) the finding of an aggravating circumstance in the guilt phase of the trial, and the class of murders for which the death penalty will even be considered by a jury has already been significantly narrowed by the Legislature as a method of guiding sentencing discretion. Under the present law, many first degree murders in Georgia would be second degree murders in Louisiana.
See also R.S. 15:457 and R.S. 15:529.1.
Although the penalty hearing is to be conducted according to the applicable rules of evidence, the usual prohibition against the prosecution's initiation of the inquiry into defendant's character is simply not applicable in the penalty phase, where the focus on character is one of the statutory means of channeling the jury's sentencing discretion.