The Supreme Court threw out an Oklahoma man's death sentence Tuesday because the victim's family members were allowed to recommend a punishment to the jury.
The case, known as Bosse v. Oklahoma, centers on Shaun Michael Bosse, who was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder for the 2010 killing of his girlfriend Katrina Griffin and her two children.
Over Bosse’s objection, the state asked three of Griffin’s relatives to recommend a sentence to the jury. All three recommended death and the jury agreed.
The lower court upheld the verdict, but the Supreme Court's justices ruled unanimously Tuesday that court precedent barred the state from introducing a victim’s family member’s characterizations and opinions about the crime.
“Our decisions remain binding precedent until we see fit to reconsider them, regardless of whether subsequent cases have raised doubts about their continuing vitality,” the justices said.
The judges vacated the Oklahoma Criminal Court of Criminal Appeals judgment. The case was remanded back to the lower court for further proceedings to address the state’s argument that although it erred in its victim impact ruling, the error did not affect the jury’s sentencing determination.