U.S. Supreme Court
Green v. Georgia, 442 U.S. 95 (1979)
Green v. Georgia
Decided May 29, 1979
442 U.S. 95
Petitioner, who was indicted with one Moore for rape and murder, was tried separately in a Georgia state court. After the jury determined that petitioner was guilty of murder, a second proceeding was held to decide whether capital punishment would be imposed, and petitioner attempted to introduce the testimony of a third person, who had testified for the State at Moore's earlier trial (wherein Moore was convicted of both crimes and sentenced to death), to the effect that Moore had confided to the witness that Moore had killed the victim, shooting her twice after ordering petitioner to run an errand. The trial court refused to admit the testimony, ruling that it constituted inadmissible hearsay under Georgia law. The petitioner was sentenced to death, and the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the conviction and sentence.
Held: Regardless of whether the proffered testimony comes within Georgia's hearsay rule, under the facts of this case, its exclusion constituted a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, denying petitioner a fair trial on the issue of punishment, and thus requiring that the sentence be vacated. The excluded testimony was highly relevant to a critical issue in the punishment phase of the trial, and substantial reasons existed to assume its reliability. Perhaps most important, the State considered the testimony sufficiently reliable to use it against Moore and to base a death sentence upon it.
Certiorari granted; 242 Ga. 261, 249 S.E.2d 1, reversed and remanded.