Supreme Court declines death penalty case

Supreme Court declines death penalty case
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The Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it would not hear a case challenging the constitutionality of the death penalty.  

The appeal was filed on behalf of Shonda Walters, who was sentenced to death in May 2006 for murdering her next door neighbor with a hatchet and stealing his car.

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The U.S. Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for the Eastern District upheld the lower court’s death sentence, saying the court found the evidence sufficient to support her conviction for first-degree murder.  

In appealing the decision to the Supreme Court, Walters asked the justices to weigh in on whether the imposition of the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The court did not give any statement supporting or dissenting from its decision to reject the case.

Court watchers have been expecting the justices to take up the constitutionality of the death penalty in light of a dissent by Justice Stephen Breyer last year. Experts said Breyer’s dissent provided a blueprint for a broad challenge to capital punishment.

Justice Antonin Scalia, a member of the court’s conservative wing, said in September that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional, suggesting there are at least four justices who hold that view.

The court appears to be waiting for the right case to weigh in.

The case that was declined on Monday is Walter v. Pennsylvania.

This story was updated at 10:31 a.m.