Monday, April 28, 2014

Bloodthirsty but Ambivalent

It was 529, but that was so last month.

This month it's 682.  An additional 682.  

I don't write much about what happens in the rest of the world.  I live here in the United States.  Hell, even here my focus is Ohio and we've got our own problems.  

But 1211 death sentences.  In just a months time.  And in two trials.

Egypt.  Where they had a revolution but didn't get peace - at least not yet.

But there's this.  Within that month between 529 and 682 the original bunch had their appeals.  529 down to 37.  the other 492 got life.  So maybe (I know nothing about the legal system in Egypt) it's like here where we sentence but don't much kill.  

Where the public calls for blood but the juries mostly won't do it.  And where even the sentences mostly don't happen.  Where there are still over 3000 folks languishing on death rows most of whom will never see a needle or a noose or an electric chair or whatever new method we come up with in the effort to kill them.

Because we must.

But really, we like it a whole lot more in theory than practice.

We were trying a case.  The jury had decided our client was guilty of two aggravated murders with death specifications.  Now they were out deliberating over the sentence.  I remember one of the prospective jurors sweating, rubbing his forehead when we'd asked whether he could vote for a death sentence.  "Whew," he said (honest, that's what he said)
That really calls the question.
Yeah.  And there was the prospective juror who told us that she thought he was guilty (this was before trial, before she knew anything about the case) but couldn't vote for death.

Anyway, the jury was out for about two hours when they asked a question.  If we sentence him to 30 to life, that's 30 actual years in prison before he'd show up at the Parole Board which could keep him in for the rest of his life but could also cut him loose someday - someday after that 30 years.  If we do that, the jury wanted to know, will the judge make the sentences consecutive or concurrent?

And so we argued about it.  Tell them the truth, we said: You'll make them consecutive.  60 years to the Board.  We all know that.  Tell them it's none of their business, said the prosecutor.  How the life sentences are imposed is none of their business.  Which was probably the legally correct answer under Ohio law (and which tells you most of what you need to know about Ohio law - be sure not to let the jurors actually know what they're doing).

And while we argued, the jury solved it's own problem - which was how to ensure that our client never got out of prison but they didn't have to kill him.  They gave him two sentences of LWOP.  Death in prison twice.

And so it is.  529 down to 492.  682 soon to be reduced to some other ungodly high, but noticeably lower number.  Because even where they're OK with killing they're really not all that good with it.

Just ask this woman.

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