Opinions Relating to Orders - 2018

Sparks v. Davis

The application for stay of execution of sentence of death presented to JUSTICE ALITO and by him referred to the Court is denied. The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied. Statement of JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR respecting the denial of certiorari. The allegations presented in this petition are disturbing. On the day the jury began punishment deliberations in petitioner Robert Sparks’ capital murder trial, one of the bailiffs on duty in the courtroom wore a black tie embroidered with a white syringe—a tie that he admitted he wore to express his support for the death penalty. That an officer of the court conducted himself in such a manner is deeply troubling. Undoubtedly, such “distinctive, identifiable attire may affect a juror’s judgment.” Estelle v. Williams, 425 U. S. 501, 504–505 (1976). The state habeas court, however, conducted an evidentiary hearing but did not find sufficient evidence to conclude that the jury saw the tie. I therefore do not disagree with the denial of certiorari. I nevertheless hope that presiding judges aware of this kind of behavior would see fit to intervene in future cases by completely removing the offending item or court officer from the jury’s presence.