Death Penalty Standard Should Be Beyond All Doubt
The Chicago Tribune today in an editorial supports a pending bill changing the burden of proof in death penalty cases to beyond all doubt from beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Illinois House is considering legislation that would establish a higher burden of proof in capital case sentencing. Judges and jurors in criminal trials would still apply the time-tested standard of guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." But the standard to impose a death sentence would be even higher. Under the legislation, the court would tell jurors that they may impose a death sentence "if the jury unanimously determines that the evidence leaves no doubt respecting the defendant's guilt." If jurors had any residual, or lingering, doubts, they would impose a sentence of life in prison.
Given the deeply troubling experience in Illinois, it should be easy for supporters and opponents of capital punishment to agree on this: When the state is going to impose the ultimate, irreversible punishment, there should be no doubt that the person paying for the crime is the one who committed it.
And in Texas, S.B. 60 has passed it's first house vote. It would add a third option for juries in death cases - life without the possibility of parole.
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