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Supreme Court orders new review of death sentence in Oklahoma triple murder

Photo via Thinkstock.com
Photo via Thinkstock.com

WASHINGTON _ The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered a new review of the death sentence given an Oklahoma man convicted of killing a woman and her two children.The high court ruled that the judge in the case should not have allowed relatives of the victims to tell the jury a death sentence was proper.

Shaun Michael Bosse was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder in the 2010 killings in McClain County of Katrina Griffin and her children, Christian and Chastity.

Bosse's attorney objected during the sentencing phase when a prosecutor asked Griffin's relatives to recommend a sentence to the jury, according to the Supreme Court opinion released Tuesday.

In an unsigned opinion, the justices pointed to a 1987 Supreme Court ruling that the Eighth Amendment "prohibits a capital sentencing jury from considering victim impact evidence” that does not “relate directly to the circumstances of the crime.”  

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decided that the Supreme Court had overruled that precedent a few years later and that the victim impact statements in the Bosse case were constitutionally allowed.

The court ruled Monday that the part of the precedent barring victims from recommending a sentence had not been overruled.

"The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals remains bound by (the 1987 precedent's) prohibition on characterizations and opinions from a victim’s family members about the crime, the defendant, and the appropriate sentence unless this Court reconsiders that ban," the opinion states.

Lincoln Ferguson, spokesman for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, said,

“Today, the Supreme Court ruled that the sentence recommendations given by the victims’ family members were inadmissible. 

"The Court remanded the case to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals to determine any impact this evidence had on Mr. Bosse’s sentence.  While disappointed in the Court’s decision, we are hopeful that the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals will allow the sentence to stand when they consider whether Mr. Bosse’s jury would have reached the same conclusion about an appropriate sentence even without the victim impact statements.”


Chris Casteel

Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the... Read more ›