United States v Bass case

United States vBass case

There are several instances inwhich the Supreme Court of the United States has made incorrectdecision. One of the most published cases where the Supreme Courtmade an error in issuing its judgment was in the United States v.Bass case. The court made a decisive ruling on the standard of proofthat is required for an accused to “obtain discovery to support aclaim of selective prosecution for death penalty” (Jesse, 2003).The defendant had filed a petition arguing that the governmentthrough the prosecutor filed a notice to prosecutor him and seekdeath penalty because of his race. However, the court ruled againstBass arguing that in order to obtain the discovery, the defendantmust be able to demonstrate that the United States government wasmotivated discriminatory intentions in seeking death penalty.Additionally, the defendant should be able to demonstrate that theconduct of the government through the prosecutor had discriminatoryeffects on him (Polley &amp Richard, 2010). However, it is theargument of this paper that the supreme court incorrect the rulingagainst the defendant.

The United States v. Bass caseis one of the notable cases where the decision of the jury in theSupreme Court can be considered to be incorrect. This is mainlybecause the Supreme Court imposed a very high threshold to thedefendant seeking for the discovery. The burden of proof isrelatively high considering that fact that the defendant as seekingsupport for alleged selective prosecution due to his race. Secondlythe case involved the United States seeking a capital punishmentagainst the defendant. The findings of the case were based on theUnited States v. Armstrong which was used as the benchmark in caseswhere defendant raised issues related to selective prosecution. Inthe United States v. Armstrong case, the Supreme Court ruled that thedefendant who is interested in discovery on selective prosecution ina court of law should that the prosecutors had the intention todiscriminate him and the actions of the prosecutor havediscriminatory effects. the supreme concluded that the statisticalevidence indicating that blacks are more likely to be prosecuted fordrug related crimes compared to white did not meet the minimumthreshold. The court argued that it had no intention of intruding thepowers of the executive to enforce the law (Jesse, 2003).

However, it is clear that theSupreme Court made an error in relying on the United States v.Armstrong case. It is right to argue that the executive has theconstitutional authority to enforce the law. The defendant shouldalso have evidence to support the discovery of selectiveprosecutions. However, it is the responsibility of the Supreme Courtto ensure that the death penalty is not applied arbitrarily to thedefendant by the prosecution. Subjectively applying death penaltyoutweighs the independence of the executive to enforce criminal law.The burden of proof by the defendant seeking discovery of selectiveprosecution may be reasonable in drug related cases such as theUnited States v. Armstrong case but unreasonable in the context ofdeath penalty (Jesse, 2003). The court made a mistake in failing toprevent a worthy claim of discriminative prosecution from beingdiscovered in a high profile case. The court should have used theUnited States v. Bass case to reconsider the standard of proofimposed in earlier noncapital cases involving selective prosecution.The severe nature of death penalty requires a lenient burden of proofunder United States v. Bass case circumstances (Louis, 2014).


Jesse, L. (2003). “Unequaljustice: The Supreme Court`s Failure to Curtail Selective Prosecutionfor the Death Penalty”, TheJournal of Criminal Law &amp Criminology,Vol. 93, No.4

Louis, J (2014). Thedeath penalty in the United States: a complete guide to federal andstate laws, Jefferson,North Carolina: McFarland &amp Company, Inc. Publishers.

Polley, N. &amp Richard, T.(2010). “Equal Protection at the Erotic Oasis: Examining SelectiveProsecution Claims in Lewd Conduct Cases”, CriminalJustice Review, April27, 2010, doi: 10.1177/0734016810363800