Com. v. Chambers

3 Analyses of this case by attorneys

  1. Capital Defense Weekly, November 13, 2000

    Capital Defense NewsletterNovember 13, 2010

    Similarly, any suggestion that the jury may base itsdecision on a "higher law" than that of the court in which it sits is forbidden.See Jones v. Kemp , 706 F. Supp. 1534, 1558-59 (N.D. Ga. 1989); Commonwealthv. Chambers, 599 A.2d 630, 644 (Pa. 1991). The obvious danger of such asuggestion is that the jury will give less weight to, or perhaps even disregard,the legal instructions given it by the trial judge in favor of the assertedhigher law.In a capital case like this one, the prosecution's invocationof higher law or extra-judicial authority violates the Eighth Amendmentprinciple that the death penalty may be constitutionally imposed only whenthe jury makes findings under a sentencing scheme that carefully focusesthe jury on the specific factors it is to consider in reaching a verdict.See Godfrey v. Georgia, 446 U.S. 420, 428 (1980) (holding that capitalsentencing statutes must "channel the sentencer's discretion by clear andobjective standards that provide specific and detailed guidance, and thatmake rationally reviewable the process for imposing a sentence of death")(internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

  2. Capital Defense Weekly, October 25, 2004

    Capital Defense NewsletterOctober 25, 2004

    Although there is sometimes a "gray zone" separating acceptable from improper advocacy, this Court has categorically prohibited certain prosecutorial arguments that we have deemed extremely and inherently prejudicial. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Chambers, 528 Pa. 558, 599 A.2d 630, 643 (Pa.1991). Thus, in Chambers, this Court held that a prosecutor's reliance upon the Bible or other religious writings as an independent source of law supporting the imposition of a death penalty is reversible error per se.

  3. Capital Defense Weekly, November 20, 2000

    Capital Defense NewsletterNovember 20, 2000

    Similarly, any suggestion that the jury may base itsdecision on a "higher law" than that of the court in which it sits is forbidden.See Jones v. Kemp , 706 F. Supp. 1534, 1558-59 (N.D. Ga. 1989); Commonwealthv. Chambers, 599 A.2d 630, 644 (Pa. 1991). The obvious danger of such asuggestion is that the jury will give less weight to, or perhaps even disregard,the legal instructions given it by the trial judge in favor of the assertedhigher law.In a capital case like this one, the prosecution's invocationof higher law or extra-judicial authority violates the Eighth Amendmentprinciple that the death penalty may be constitutionally imposed only whenthe jury makes findings under a sentencing scheme that carefully focusesthe jury on the specific factors it is to consider in reaching a verdict.See Godfrey v. Georgia, 446 U.S. 420, 428 (1980) (holding that capitalsentencing statutes must "channel the sentencer's discretion by clear andobjective standards that provide specific and detailed guidance, and thatmake rationally reviewable the process for imposing a sentence of death")(internal citations and quotation marks omitted).