481 U. S. 393
April 22, 1987
Hitchcock coerced his brother’s 13 year old stepdaughter into having sex with him. Some time afterward, she told Hitchcock that she could no longer keep this a secret. In response, he strangled her to death. During trial, he tried to pin the murder on the stepfather. At the sentencing phase, Hitchcock’s lawyer told sob stories about his impoverished upbringing, his father’s death, and his addiction to gasoline fumes. The judge sentenced Hitchcock to death anyway, explaining that those were not mitigating circumstances that Florida law allowed him to take into consideration.
Unanimously, the Supreme Court overturned Hitchcock’s death sentence. Scalia explained that the case was squarely controlled by prior precedents which mandated that all relevant mitigating evidence be considered before imposing a death sentence. Because the Florida judge had dismissed a large portion of the mitigating evidence from consideration, Hitchcock’s right to fair sentencing had been violated.
This is easily the worst unanimous decision of the year, and it will probably be a strong contender for worst overall decision of the year. This is exactly the sort of horrendous prioritizing that I faulted the dissent for in McCleskey, except here not four but all nine Justices have signed on to this grotesque inversion of righteousness. Hitchcock raped and murdered a middle school aged girl, and then tried to blame her stepfather. Her blood cries out for justice. But the Court would rather focus on the speck in the Florida judge’s eye than the plank in Hitchcock’s eye.
The Constitution cannot possibly mandate this. To say that executing Hitchcock would be “cruel and unusual” obliterates those words of any meaning whatsoever. It demonstrates a deep sickness in the American society. We are not a noble people because we spare murderers from execution on the basis of stupid, made-up prophylactic rules. Ignoring the blood of murdered innocents in favor of procedural niceties is the opposite of nobility.