Stevens on the Death Penalty
Justice Stevens, speaking in Chicago, called attention to the “pro-death bias” of juries and judges who decide whether to punish a crime with death:
Most judges who preside at capital trials are elected, creating a "subtle bias in favor of death" -- since it's hard to face reelection having given a break to a killer. The jury selection process does the same. Prosecutors question jurors at length about their willingness to impose death; this creates an imbalance in juries, when prosecutors strike those with anxiety about capital punishment, and it creates an atmosphere “in which jurors are likely to assume that their primary task is to determine the penalty for a presumptively guilty defendant.”
Those same concerns are echoed in this TalkLeft post.
Death penalty juries rarely reflect the larger community because courts exclude potential jurors who don’t believe that death is an appropriate sanction in any case. As TalkLeft argued here, juries should be “life qualified,” not “death qualified.” Better yet, it's time to end our reliance on death as an acceptable punishment.
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