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Delaware’s Current Death Row Inmates Will Now Get Life Sentences, State High Court Rules

WASHINGTON The Delaware Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that death sentences handed down previously in the state must be converted to life sentences without the possibility of parole.

In August, the state high court ruled in Rauf v. Delaware that the states death sentencing law was unconstitutional in the wake of the US Supreme Courts January decision striking down Floridas death sentencing law.

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Derrick Powell, one of fewer than 20 inmates on Delawares death row, challenged his death sentence in light of that August ruling and the US Supreme Court case, Hurst v. Florida.

On Thursday, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled that its August decision is a new watershed procedural rule of criminal procedure that must be applied retroactively meaning it applies to death sentences handed down under the law now held to be unconstitutional.


As such, Powells death sentence must be vacated and he must be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the court held.

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None of the courts five justices dissented from the unsigned Thursday opinion a marked contrast from the closely divided 3-2 decision in the August case.


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