Delaware court mulls constitutionality of death penalty law

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Delaware’s Supreme Court is mulling the constitutionality of the state’s death penalty in light of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year.

 

The court heard arguments Wednesday after agreeing in January to answer questions from Delaware’s Superior Court on whether the state’s death penalty law meets constitutional muster. Meanwhile, all death penalty trials are on hold.

Questions were raised about Delaware’s law after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Florida’s death penalty sentencing statute. That statute required a judge, not a jury, to find the existence of an “aggravating circumstance” making a defendant eligible for the death penalty.

Delaware’s law is similar to Florida’s, but prosecutors argue that it is constitutional because a jury makes the initial decision on whether a Delaware defendant is eligible for the death penalty.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.