Of Counsel

Legal Notes on Georgia and The South

AJC Death Penalty Coverage: Day 3

Posted by Maggie on September 25, 2007

Three articles today on the death penalty in Georgia. Divided About Death, on the death penalty in armed robbery murders. Pendulum Swings Toward Life in Prison, adding that since armed robbery murders so rarely get the death penalty, it’s possible they shouldn’t be given at all under Georgia law. And finally, Is the Public Less Eager to Have Killers Die? on Georgia juries handing out less death sentences.

Today’s coverage brings up something I’ve been thinking about lately on prosecutorial discretion. As any defense attorney knows, prosecutorial discretion is a dangerous thing. But it also has the potential to be a beneficial thing when in the hands of a wise prosecutor. One of the main trends of the AJC articles is bringing to the forefront the effect of prosecutorial discretion on death penalty cases. They seem to be seeking out some kind of standard, a situation where you can count on getting or not getting the death penalty.

If you take away the issue of the death penalty, assume it’s there, assume it’s appropriate to use, then I still think there are factors outside of the crime itself that will always affect the appropriate use of the death penalty, just as there are in any sentencing situation. I am certainly one of the camp who believes that if the victim’s family doesn’t want death, there shouldn’t be death. The age, the mental status, the family background, all these things are also completely relevant. This search for uniformity in the death penalty is going to be elusive anywhere in the country, not just here.

I think the insinuation that we need to make this a standardized situation ignores the delicacy that these cases require. Personally, I think all cases should have all these factors analyzed, regardless of the crime. It’s one of the reasons I bristle at mandatory minimums and other blindsighted sentencing legislation. I’m curious to see if we get any resolution tomorrow with the big wrap-up.

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