The U.S. Supreme Court is taking up a case that reads like a best-selling legal thriller and could clear up confusion over impact of a 2002 death penalty ruling.
The earlier ruling determined that juries, not judges, must have the final say in who receives the death penalty laws of Arizona, Montana, Idaho, Nebraska and Colorado because those states left it to judges to determine if a killer should be executed. The ruling also cast doubt on death sentencing procedures in other states that used a combination of juries and judges to impose death sentences.
The court's latest decision deals with retroactivity. The ruling could affect the cases of at least 86 Arizona death row inmates, including one at the center of this case, and about 25 others in Idaho, Montana and Nebraska. Other states that could be affected include Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Indiana and Nevada.
The Supreme Court is hearing arguments Monday in the case of Arizona prisoner Warren Wesley Summerline.