The Supreme Court in a 5-4 opinion on Tuesday upheld a death sentence for an Arizona man convicted of killing two people nearly three decades ago.
The decision — which saw dissent from the court’s four liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — denies James McKinney a new sentencing hearing following his 1992 conviction.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who delivered the opinion of the conservative judges, rejected McKinney’s argument that the decision over whether he should serve a life sentence or face death should be made by a jury, not a judge.
McKinney was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder after killing two people in a series of home burglaries.
Nearly 20 years after McKinney’s conviction, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit found that the Arizona courts had violated the law by failing to properly consider relevant mitigating evidence of McKinney’s post traumatic stress disorder.
His case returned to the Arizona Supreme Court and McKinney argued he is entitled to a jury sentencing, but the state Supreme Court upheld his death sentence.
“According to McKinney, appellate courts may no longer reweigh aggravating and mitigating circumstances in determining whether to uphold a death sentence. McKinney is incorrect,” Kavanaugh wrote.