U.S. Supreme Court
Rose v. Hodges, 423 U.S. 19 (1975)
Rose v. Hodges
Decided November 11, 1975
423 U.S. 19
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
Respondents were convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the convictions, but reversed and remanded to the trial court on the punishment issue. Shortly thereafter, the Governor commuted the death sentences to 99 years' imprisonment, and the State immediately petitioned for a rehearing in the Court of Criminal Appeals, which sustained the commutations and held its remand "for naught," thus affirming the convictions and sentences, as modified. After the State Supreme Court denied certiorari, respondents sought habeas corpus in the Federal District Court, claiming, inter alia, that their Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated by the illegal commutations, but the District Court dismissed on this issue for failure to exhaust state remedies. On respondents' appeal, the Court of Appeals held that, since the death sentences had been vacated at the time of the Governor's order, there were no death sentences to commute, and hence the commutations were invalid.
1. Whether or not respondents' sentences were subject to commutation, and the extent of the Governor's authority under the circumstances, are questions of Tennessee law which the State Criminal Appeals Court resolved in favor of the Governor's action, and it was not a federal habeas court's province to reexamine these questions.