Alabama Judges Retain the Right to Override Juries in Capital Sentencing

Discussion in 'Up to the Minute' started by Reader, Nov 22, 2013.

  1. Reader

    Reader New Member

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    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/19/u...?partner=socialflow&smid=tw-nytnational&_r=1&

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday turned down a challenge to an unusual Alabama capital-sentencing practice that has sent 95 defendants to death row despite jury determinations calling for life sentences. ........

    The case, Woodward v. Alabama, No. 13-5380, concerned Mario D. Woodward, who was convicted of killing Keith Houts, a police officer. By an 8-to-4 vote, the jury recommended a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The trial judge rejected the recommendation and condemned Mr. Woodward to death.

    More at link......
     
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  3. Nova

    Nova New Member

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    (Never mind. I see our feckless Supreme Court has already shirked its responsibility on this one.)

    Why even have sentencing juries if their verdicts are mere "suggestions"?
     
  4. Tawny

    Tawny Bye

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    That doesn't sit well with me.
     
  5. TrackerSam

    TrackerSam New Member

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    Judges can over rule jurys when the jury finds one guilty and the judge disagrees. The judge can't over rule a jury that aquits a defendant.
    What happens to cop killers and muderers in general, garners no sympathy from me.
     
  6. Nova

    Nova New Member

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    The whole point of civilian juries is to serve as a check on the power of the government. Yes, under certain circumstances, a judge can overrule a jury verdict and LOWER the penalty or acquit the defendant entirely. (This rarely happens but it is a check on amateur juries who may misunderstand the facts or the law.)

    But in the case we are discussing here, Alabama has given judges the power to overrule a jury and RAISE the penalty (to the ultimate penalty, no less). In my view, this is a gross violation of our constitutional right to a trial by jury.
     
  7. TrackerSam

    TrackerSam New Member

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    No it doesn't. You'll have a trial by jury, nobodody's denying you your constitutional right to a trial by jury, but I I don't think you have a right to be sentenced by the jury, which is what is in question here.
    Where in the Constitution does it give you the right to be sentenced by the jury?
     
  8. Nova

    Nova New Member

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    Sam, requiring a jury of one's peers to mete out the death penalty was a primary factor in the Supreme Court of the time allowing the d.p. to resume after the hiatus of the 1970s.

    As in so many areas, the SCOTUS approval of Alabama's outrageous law is part of our slow crawl back to the 1950s. Wait--make that 1850, since what we are seeing is a revival of the Confederacy.
     
  9. Elley Mae

    Elley Mae The enemy is here. beware

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    Florida and Delaware allow overrides as well. Let's not color the issue. What shouldn't happen is deciding someones innocence because of the sentence. Guilty is Guilty. jmo
     
  10. TrackerSam

    TrackerSam New Member

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    Thanks. I didn't realize Delaware was part of the Confederacy.
     
  11. Elley Mae

    Elley Mae The enemy is here. beware

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    Don't tell joe.

    :truce:
     
  12. Karmady

    Karmady Former Member

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    ~bbm

    But guilt or innocence is the province of the jury, while sentencing is almost alway the province of the judge. So while some may see an issue with the judicial override of a life sentence in states that permit it, I don't think the issue is whether it violates the defendant's right to a trial by jury. Their guilt or innocence was decided by the jury. If the judge wasn't allowed to impose the sentence because of the right to a jury trial, sentencing in 99% of criminal cases would be unconstitutional.

    As I see it, the issue is whether imposing a death sentence (rather than a life sentence) MUST be a concensus decision rather than in the hands of one person. There may be a valid distinction from non-DP sentencing in a capital case because of the finality of the DP, but I think that's a different constitutional question. Or maybe even just a "public policy" issue.

    jmo
     
  13. Reader

    Reader New Member

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    http://www.eji.org/files/Override_Report.pdf

    Document shows that judges in Ala. override more during election years.

    The jury's verdict should be final, for guilt/not guilty and the sentence of 'no death penalty'. IMO
     
  14. TrackerSam

    TrackerSam New Member

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    :judge: OVER RULED. Sentencing by jury is not a right.
     
  15. MCDRAW

    MCDRAW New Member

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    I'm sure many juries are glad when a judge overrides them. Some people think someone deserves the death penalty but when it comes to sentencing someone, thats another thing.
     
  16. Nova

    Nova New Member

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    I was speaking of a frame of reference, not literal geography. And I didn't know Delaware had a similar law.

    In fact, Delaware did not join the Confederacy, but it was a slave state. Wedged between the strongholds of NY, Philadelphia and Washington, Delaware may not have felt it really had the option to secede.

    In any event, I was speaking metaphorically.
     
  17. Nova

    Nova New Member

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    I believed you the first time, Sam. In fact, the Constitution doesn't specify what portions of the trial must be decided by the jury, but as you and Karmady point out, obviously our tradition reserves the power of sentencing to the judge in most cases.

    My feeling is that once you submit a matter to a jury, the jury's ruling should prevail except in cases of extreme jury error.

    This may be the only time I say something nice about Arizona, but AZ does this right: if you can't get a jury to vote unanimously for death, then the sentence reverts to LWOP.

    Full disclosure: in fact, I oppose the d.p. in all cases.
     
  18. Catmammy

    Catmammy Member

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    Obviously not the victim or the family member of a victim of a horrible crime. It is much easier NOT to support the death penalty when you've never been impacted by the crime it is deemed punishable by.
     
  19. Nova

    Nova New Member

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    There is something called a moral principle. Maybe you've heard of it. It isn't something one discards because of an emotional response (however understandable).

    Many family members of murder victims oppose the d.p. out of principle.

    And, yes, one of my cousins was stabbed to death. (It happened a long time ago. This isn't a request for sympathy, but the tragedy didn't change the principle upon which I oppose the d.p.)

    For the record, I do understand why some loved ones of murder victims want justice in the form of capital punishment. They are wrong, even wrong that killing the killer will ease their pain, but their impulse is certainly human and I do not condemn them for their feelings. On the contrary, their very human feelings are why the State should be in charge of justice rather than relatives.
     
  20. Karmady

    Karmady Former Member

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    I'm not opposed to the death penalty under certain circumstances, but I couldn't agree more with your post. I cringe whenever I hear the "but what if it happened to you" argument. My moral compass doesn't depend on whether something happens to me, or to a friend or to a total stranger. jmo
     
  21. ontheclock

    ontheclock New Member

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    This is an interesting discussion. I can appreciate both sides of the argument.
     

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