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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.

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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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