Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

The state Supreme Court found Delaware's death penalty statute in violation of the Sixth Amendment. (Photo: J. Stephen Conn/flickr/cc)

Delaware Rules Death Penalty Unconstitutional

Delaware's most recent execution took place in 2012

Nika Knight Beauchamp

In a landmark decision (pdf), the Delaware Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state's death penalty law is unconstitutional. 

The majority found that the state's death penalty violated the Sixth Amendment, as it allowed a judge to override a jury's recommendation of a life sentence and impose a death sentence instead.

The ruling followed a U.S. Supreme Court decision in January that overturned portions of Florida's death penalty statute for the same reason. That decision, Hurst v. Florida, found that "[t]he Sixth Amendment requires a jury, not a judge, to find each fact necessary to impose a sentence of death."

In Tuesday's ruling, Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice Leo E. Strine Jr. wrote: "I am unable to discern in the Sixth Amendment any dividing line between the decision that someone is eligible for death and the decision that he should in fact die."

Alabama is now the only remaining state that gives judges the final say on imposing a death sentence, Delaware Online notes. In total, 32 states still allow the death penalty.

"All pending capital murder trials and executions for the 14 men on death row are currently on hold while the court considered the constitutionality issue," according to Delaware Online. 

Delaware's most recent execution took place in 2012.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'All of Rail Labor Is Going to Suffer': Workers Furious Over Biden Move to Preempt Strike

"This is a legacy-defining moment for Joe Biden," said Railroad Workers United. "He is going down as one of the biggest disappointments in labor history."

Jake Johnson ·


Citing Need for 'New, Inclusive Leadership,' Chuy García Files for Chicago Mayoral Race

"We have an opportunity to elect a trusted and experienced leader with a history of building coalitions and a vision for a brighter future for all Chicagoans," said the Democratic congressman.

Jessica Corbett ·


On Cyber Monday, Climate Activists Take Aim at Fashion Industry

"The fashion industry is one of the largest polluting industries globally. We can all do better, but it's on companies to make this industry better for workers, the planet, and consumers alike."

Jessica Corbett ·


Biden Accused of Selling Out Rail Workers by Urging Congress to Prevent Strike

"Biden is siding with corporate rail bosses over the rank-and-file workers who voted against this agreement," said one progressive commentator after the president urged lawmakers to take action to force through a deal without paid sick leave.

Brett Wilkins ·


Analysis Finds State Legislators Proposed 306 Bills Targeting Trans People in Past 2 Years

"Right-wing state lawmakers are obsessed with taking away the rights of trans people and we're obsessed with knocking them out of public office," said one rights group.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo