Shaun Michael Bosse v. Oklahoma


A jury convicted the petitioner of three counts of first-degree murder for the 2010 killing of Katrina Griffin and her two children. The State of Oklahoma sought the death penalty. Over the petitioner’s objection, the State asked three of the victims’ relatives to recommend a sentence to the jury. All three recommended death, and the jury agreed. The petitioner appealed but the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his sentence, concluding that there was no error.

The Supreme Court in Booth v. Maryland, 482 U. S. 496 (1987) had held that the Eighth Amendment prohibited a capital sentencing jury from considering victim impact evidence that did not relate directly to the circumstances of the crime. It also held that the admission of a victim’s family members’ characterizations and opinions about the crime, the defendant, and the appropriate sentence violated the Eighth Amendment. But the Supreme Court in Payne v. Tennessee, 501 U. S. 808 (1991) held that Booth was wrong to conclude that the Eighth Amendment required such a ban.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals held that Payne implicitly overruled that portion of Booth regarding characterizations of the defendant and opinions of the sentence.

But the Supreme Court disagreed holding that Payne holding was expressly limited to a particular type of victim impact testimony and did not overrule Booth ruling. The judgment of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals was vacated and the case was remanded for further proceedings.