Execution made easy? - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Execution made easy?

January 30, 2007

Albany -- Georgia legislative leaders introduce a measure to make the death penalty more common.   The measure would allow a majority vote by jurors of only 9 to 3 to sentence a convicted person to death, instead of the present unanimous decision.  

Many South Georgians in the judicial system say this is a bad idea.    

Georgia House Majority Whip Barry Fleming of Harlem introduced the measure, to stop rigid death penalty opponents from stopping capital punishment. Fleming said the bill would prevent jurors who hide their opposition to capital punishment from  "sabotaging the death penalty."

Defense Attorney Pete Donaldson said, "I guess they are just looking for the death penalty to be a sure thing every time they ask for it. It's all politics."

Current law requires jurors in death penalty cases to unanimously determine the defendant's guilt, then also be unanimous on whether the crime deserves the death penalty.

Donaldson says the death penalty needs to be the hardest verdict in the court system.  "168 people who have freed from death row on DNA examinations that have proven the person on death row was not guilty. It seems to me they are getting death penalties pretty easily now."

Judge Loring Gray also agrees this measure would not be good for justice. "When you talk about the ultimate penalty, the death penalty, I think it's almost a misjustice to say that less than an unanimous verdict could sustain the death penalty."

Fleming said rigid death penalty opponents have managed to sneak through pre-trial screenings that remove people morally opposed to capital punishment, and his plan would give other jurors the ability to give that sentence.

"I think it's an abomination," Donaldson said. "Every time some legislator wants to make a headline or gain some votes, he waves a law and order flag around."

Both Judge Gray and Donaldson agree that the measure would almost certainly lead to legal challenges, further delaying justice.

Dougherty  County Prosecutor Greg Edwards said he thinks the death penalty statute should stay the same as it is now, requiring the most thorough decision for the ultimate penalty.

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