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Supreme Court rules death row inmate can argue for new trial in state court

Jury had not been told that inmate's life sentence would be without parole.

Published: February 25, 2023 1:13pm

Updated: February 25, 2023 1:23pm

The Supreme Court this week ruled in favor of an Arizona death row inmate who argued that he should be allowed to present a new case in state court after the jury that convicted him was uninformed that he would be ineligible for parole under a life sentence. 

John Montenegro Cruz had been convicted of murder in 2003. His attorneys at the time attempted to inform the jury that were he handed a life sentence, he would not be eligible for a parole. Yet the presiding judge would not allow the jury to learn that information. 

Cruz subsequently argued that he should be given a new trial under the auspices of the 1994 Supreme Court decision Simmons v. South Carolina, which held that death penalty defendants have a right to inform the jury of their ineligibility for parole if they are given a life sentence. 

The Supreme Court in this week's ruling sided in Cruz's favor, claiming that subsequent precedent has re-affirmed his trial rights under Simmons

The majority ruling directs that Cruz's case be "remanded for further proceedings."

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