Enmund v. Florida was a 5-4 decision in which the United States Supreme Court applied its capital proportionality principle to set aside the death penalty for the driver of a getaway car in a robbery-murder of an elderly Florida couple. While Enmund sat outside in the getaway car, his accomplices Sampson and Jeanette Armstrong rang the doorbell of Thomas and Eunice Kersey, who lived at a farmhouse in central Florida. When Thomas Kersey answered, Sampson Armstrong held him at gunpoint while Jeanette took his money. Eunice came out with a gun and shot Jeanette, wounding her. Sampson shot back and killed both of the Kerseys. The Armstrongs took all the Kerseys' money, then they went back to the getaway car Enmund was driving.
Enmund and the Armstrongs were indicted for first-degree murder and robbery. The judge instructed the jury that, under Florida law, killing a human being while engaged in the perpetration or in the attempt to perpetrate a robbery is first-degree murder. Enmund and Sampson Armstrong were convicted of first-degree murder. At a separate penalty hearing, the trial judge found that the murders were committed for pecuniary gain and were especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, and that no statutory mitigating factors applied, and then sentenced Enmund to death. On appeal the Florida Supreme Court rejected Enmund's contention that his death sentence was inappropriate because he did not kill or intend to kill the Kerseys.
Justice White ruled that the Eighth Amendment forbade Florida from imposing the death penalty on an offender such as Enmund who "aids and abets a felony in the course of which a murder is committed by others but who does not himself kill, attempt to kill, or intend that a killing take place or that lethal force will be employed.
Enmund v. Florida
Supreme Court of the United States Argued March 23, 1982 Decided July 2, 1982
Prior history: Conviction and sentence upheld by the Supreme Court of Florida, 399 So. 2d 1362 (Fla. 1981); cert. granted, 454 U.S. 939 (1981).
Holding The Eighth Amendment does not allow the death penalty for a person who is a minor participant in a felony and does not kill, attempt to kill, or intend to kill. 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 Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor Case opinions Majority by: White Joined by: Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun, Stevens Concurrence by: Brennan Dissent by: O'Connor Joined by: Burger, Powell, Rehnquist
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