Skipper v. South Carolina

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Skipper v. South Carolina
Argued February 24, 1986
Decided April 29, 1986
Full case nameSkipper v. South Carolina
Citations476 U.S. 1 (more)
106 S. Ct. 1669; 90 L. Ed. 2d 1; 1986 U.S. LEXIS 145
The trial court's exclusion from the sentencing hearing of the testimony of the jailers and the visitor denied petitioner his right to place before the sentencing jury all relevant evidence in mitigation of punishment.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Warren E. Burger
Associate Justices
William J. Brennan Jr. · Byron White
Thurgood Marshall · Harry Blackmun
Lewis F. Powell Jr. · William Rehnquist
John P. Stevens · Sandra Day O'Connor
Case opinions
MajorityWhite, joined by Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun, Stevens, O'Connor
ConcurrencePowell, joined by Burger, Rehnquist
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amends. VIII, XIV

Skipper v. South Carolina, 476 U.S. 1 (1986), is a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that the rule from Lockett v. Ohio (1978) dictated that mitigating evidence not be subject to limitations based on relevance.


Ronald DeRay Skipper was convicted of capital murder and rape in South Carolina. During the penalty phase of his bifurcated trial, as required by Gregg v. Georgia (1976), Skipper sought to introduce as mitigating evidence that he had "adjusted well" to his pre-trial incarceration. The trial court ruled the evidence irrelevant, in keeping with controlling South Carolina caselaw, excluded the evidence. Skipper was subsequently sentenced to death.


The Court held that, under Lockett, the exclusion of mitigating evidence on relevance grounds, as articulated by the South Carolina Supreme Court, violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments and vacated the sentence.

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