Gaither v. Commonwealth

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Justia Opinion Summary

Appellant was convicted of kidnapping, first-degree manslaughter, tampering with physical evidence, and theft by unlawful taking. Upon Appellant’s motion for postconviction relief, the trial court set aside Appellant’s kidnapping sentence and granted a new penalty phase trial on that charge. After a retrial, the trial court sentenced Appellant to imprisonment for life, to be served concurrently with the twenty-year sentence for manslaughter. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the retrial of the kidnapping penalty phase was not fatally flawed because (1) gruesome details of the condition of the victim’s body were irrelevant and cumulative but did not sway the jury’s sentencing decision; (2) victim impact testimony relating to several victims was proper, and certain improper victim impact testimony was not palpable error; (3) the trial court did not improperly limit Appellant’s presentation of mitigation evidence; and (4) the trial court did not err by permitting the Commonwealth to use guilt-phase physical evidence during its closing argument.