Is the death penalty imposed fairly in Georgia? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Is the death penalty imposed fairly in Georgia?

February 23, 2006

Albany-- Is the death penalty imposed fairly in Georgia? The American Bar Association recently raised questions about capital punishment in Georgia. Thursday, a state senator introduced a bill that would temporarily stop all Georgia executions.

Prosecutors in Dougherty County say the current slow system already isn't fair to victims but some defense attorneys say death row inmates are sometimes the victims themselves.

Nearly eight years ago, Marcus Ray Johnson was given the death penalty for raping and killing Angela Sizemore. That same year, William Marvin Gulley was sentenced to death for the murder of 81-year-old Mary Garner. The two sentences are memorable for Dougherty District Attorney Ken Hodges.

"One of which was reversed during the Habeus process on appeal," says Hodges.

Gulley was re-sentenced to life without parole last year. Hodges says right now it takes 12 to 15 years to impose any sentence in death penalty cases. "The criminals have far more rights than the innocent victims that they kill," says Hodges.

Senator Vincent Fort of Atlanta introduced legislation that would stop all executions in Georgia until the death penalty is deemed fair. "The death penalty in Georgia is very evenly distributed and fairly handed down," says Hodges.

"If you want to have a penalty imposed that's the ultimate penalty, then it should at least be fairly applied," says attorney Jim Finkelstein.

Finkelstein says the current system is unfair when it comes to race, gender and income. "Generally, jurors are going to look at people differently based on who they are on who the victim is," says Finkelstein.

He says more DNA testing is proving that many on death row are innocent and he questions if the penalty of death is a just one.

"There is just no way to me to measure the value of one human life over another," says Finkelstein. But Hodges questions whether a hold-off on executions is fair to victims.

"They are killed and often times tortured, slaughtered, raped, mutilated and they get none of the rights these criminals are clammoring for now," says Hodges. And if those rights are granted, the penalty of death won't be a penalty at least for a while.

In addition to the bill calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, Senator Fort introduced bill to create a commission to study the state's use of the death penalty. Both Ken Hodges and Jim Finkelstein agree the legislation doesn't stand much chance of passing.

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