Court to rule on equity in use of death penalty

The US Supreme Court will take up a significant death-penalty question: whether the Constitution bars executions unless a state court first ensures the sentence is not out of line with penalties for similar crimes.

Death-penalty laws in some states require ''proportionality reviews.'' Others , like laws in California and Texas, do not. The justices will review a ruling that prevents California from executing Robert Alton Harris until the state Supreme Court concludes his sentence is not disproportionate with sentences of other murderers.

In other action, the court refused to hear the case of Jean Harris, convicted for murdering Dr. Herman Tarnower, the ''Scarsdale Diet'' author. She claimed massive publicity denied her a fair trial.

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