Juries choosing between life imprisonment and a death sentence for convicted murderers must be told when a life term would allow no chance of parole, the Supreme Court ruled Friday.
The court, by a 7-2 vote, struck down a South Carolina law that barred juries from learning about a defendant's ineligibility for parole if sentenced to life instead of death.In other actions Friday, the justices:
- Ruled that federal regulators generally cannot give long-distance telephone companies competing against AT&T greater leeway to decide what rates to charge customers.
- Decided that Massachusetts may not require milk wholesalers to pay an assessment on all milk sold in the state and then distribute the money only to in-state dairy farmers.
The decision in the South Carolina case threw out the death sentence of convicted murderer Jonathan Dale Simmons.
"Where the defendant's future dangerousness is at issue, and state law prohibits the defendant's release on parole, due process requires that the sentencing jury be informed that the defendant is parole ineligible," Justice Harry A. Blackmun wrote in the court's main opinion.
Utah already informs
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling will not affect Utah. The 1992 Legislature passed a law creating a life-without-parole sentence for convicted murderers who face the death penalty. The law requires that juries in capital murder cases be fully informed about that sentence, along with the death penalty.