Case Study Criminal Law
1. This case study assignment explores the concept of stare decisis and whether it is an inexorable command. Access and read Is Stare Decisis an Inexorable Command?
Please answer the following questions about the case study:
What does the court mean when it says “Stare decisis is not an inexorable command; rather it is a principle of policy and not a mechanical formula of adherence to the
What would it mean for the American system of criminal justice, if stare decisis actually was an “inexorable command” or a “mechanical formula of adherence to the
Your response should be at least 500 words (no less than 250 words for each question). Any sources used, including the
textbook, must be referenced; paraphrased and quoted material must have accompanying citations. All references and
citations used must be in APA style.
Schmalleger, F., & Hall, D. E. (2014). Criminal law today (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson
IS STARE DECISIS AN INEXORABLE COMMAND?
Payne v. Tennessee
US. Supreme Court, 1991
501 US. 808
CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the court.
In this case we reconsider our holdings in Booth V. Maryland, 482 US. 496 (1987),
and South Carolina V. Gathers, 490 US. 805 (1989), that the Eighth Amendment bars
the admission of victim impact evidence during the penalty phase of a capital trial.
The petitioner, Pervis Tyrone Payne, was convicted by a jury on two counts of
first-degree murder and one count of assault with intent to commit murder in the
first degree. He was sentenced to death for each of the murders, and to 30 years in
prison for the assault.
The victims of Payne’s offenses were 28-year-old Charisse Christopher, her
2-year-old daughter Lacie, and her 3-year old son Nicholas. The three lived together
in an apartment in Millington, Tennessee, across the hall from Payne’s girl friend,
Bobbie Thomas. On Saturday, June 27, 1987, Payne visited Thomas’ apartment sev-
eral times in expectation of her return from her mother’s house in Arkansas, but
found no one at home. On one visit, he left his overnight bag, containing clothes and
other items for his weekend stay, in the hallway outside Thomas’ apartment. With
the bag were three cans of malt liquor.
Payne passed the morning and early afternoon injecting cocaine and drinking
beer. Later, he drove around the town with a friend in the friend’s car, each of them
taking turns reading a pornographic magazine. Sometime around 3 P.M., Payne re-
turned to the apartment complex, entered the Christophers’ apartment, and began
making sexual advances towards Charisse. Charisse resisted and Payne became vi-
olent. A neighbor who resided in the apartment directly beneath the Christophers,
heard Charisse screaming, ”’Get out, get out,’ as if she were telling the children to
leave.” The noise briefly subsided and then began, ”horribly loud.” The neighbor
called the police after she heard a ”blood curdling scream” from the Christopher
apartment. Brief for Respondent.
When the first police officer arrived at the scene, he immediately encountered
Payne who was leaving the apartment building, so covered with blood that he ap-
peared to be ”sweating blood.” The officer confronted Payne, who responded,
I’m the complainant.” Id., at 3-4. When the officer asked, ”What’s going on up
there?” Payne struck the officer with the overnight bag, dropped his tennis shoes,
Inside the apartment, the police encountered a horrifying scene. Blood covered
the walls and floor throughout the unit. Charisse and her children were lying on the
floor in the kitchen. Nicholas, despite several wounds inflicted by a butcher knife
that completely penetrated through his body from front to back, was still breathing.
Miraculously, he survived, but not until after undergoing seven hours of surgery
and a transfusion of 1700 cc’s of blood-400 to 500 cc’s more than his estimated nor-
mal blood volume. Charisse and Lacie were dead.
Charisse’s body was found on the kitchen floor on her back, her legs fully ex-
tended. She had sustained 42 direct knife wounds and 42 defensive wounds on her
arms and hands. The wounds were caused by 41 separate thrusts of a butcher knife.
None of the 84 wounds inflicted by Payne were individually fatal; rather, the cause
of death was most likely bleeding from all of the wounds.
Fourth Edition, by Frank Schmalleger, Daniel E. Hall, with John J. Dolatowski. Published by Prentice Hall.
Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.
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