Of Counsel

Legal Notes on Georgia and The South

No Answers on Death Penalty Reform

Posted by Maggie on September 30, 2007

Yet another report from the AJC today on how to fix the death penalty now that they’ve reported the problems with it.

The suggested ideas included some kind of central panel to review cases before prosecution. This seems more trouble than it’s worth to me. How do you know which facts will be proven at trial? How do you know which witnesses will be credible? How do you know what the defense will be and what experts may present? What about prosecutorial discretion and plea bargaining?

This is exactly why there isn’t much around in the way of death penalty “reform,” you either have it with its problems or you don’t. There’s no “right way” to do the death penalty, and that’s kind of the point.

Also, Stacey Humphreys was given the death penalty today for the murder of two Cobb County women. Easy to predict, since it was the death of two white women prosecuted in Southern Georgia. But where do you draw the line? A jury found the death penalty appropriate despite mitigating evidence. In many ways they’re the most qualified to make the decision. However, how do you diffuse their inherent prejudices?

To me, if this is what we’re going to have, I don’t know that any of the suggestions are worth anything. What we need are thorough and thoughtful appeals, and we need to make sure we’re opposed to the kind of fast-tracking legislation that’s being discussed these days.


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