Enmund v. Florida
Enmund v. Florida, , is a United States Supreme Court case 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 Earl 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
Central Florida
Central Florida is a regional designation for the area surrounding Orlando in east central Florida, United States. The area represents the third largest population concentration in Florida, after the South Florida and Tampa Bay regions, respectively....

. 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
Robbery is the crime of taking or attempting to take something of value by force or threat of force or by putting the victim in fear. At common law, robbery is defined as taking the property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that property, by means of force or fear....

. 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. Jeanette 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 factor
Mitigating factor
A mitigating factor, in law, is any information or evidence presented to the court regarding the defendant or the circumstances of the crime that might result in reduced charges or a lesser sentence.-Death penalty in the United States:...

s 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, holding that the "felony murder rule and the law of principals combine to make a felon generally responsible for the lethal acts of his co-felon.'"

Opinion of the Court

Justice White
Byron White
Byron Raymond "Whizzer" White won fame both as a football halfback and as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Appointed to the court by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, he served until his retirement in 1993...

, delivered the opinion of the Court. The question before the Court was whether death is a valid penalty under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments for one who neither took life, attempted to take life, nor intended to take life. The majority found that the record did not support a finding that Enmund killed or attempted to kill the Kerseys, nor does the record support a finding that Enmund intended to participate in the killing or facilitate the killing. Accordingly, the Court held the imposition of a sentence of death upon Enmund was prohibited by the Eighth Amendment because Enmund only "aided and abetted 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."

Concurring Opinion

Justice Brennan
William J. Brennan, Jr.
William Joseph Brennan, Jr. was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1956 to 1990...

 delivered a concurring opinion, stating that he holds that the death penalty is a cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment in all circumstances.


Justice O'Connor
Sandra Day O'Connor
Sandra Day O'Connor is an American jurist who was the first female member of the Supreme Court of the United States. She served as an Associate Justice from 1981 until her retirement from the Court in 2006. O'Connor was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981...

, joined by Chief Justice Burger, Justice Powell, and Justice Rehnquist
William Rehnquist
William Hubbs Rehnquist was an American lawyer, jurist, and political figure who served as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States and later as the 16th Chief Justice of the United States...

, delivered the dissenting opinion on the basis that the majority opinion interferes with state criteria for assessing guilt.
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