Monday, 26 March 2007

House Pushes to End Unanimity Requirement for Death Penalty Cases


House Pushes to End Unanimity Requirement for Death Penalty Cases

ATLANTA (AP) - The Georgia House adopted a measure today designed to stop death penalty opponents from preventing capital punishment cases by allowing judges to consider a death sentence even if two jurors vote against it.

The plan, which now moves to the Senate, would soften Georgia's capital punishment rules by erasing the requirement that a unanimous verdict is needed to secure a death penalty.

It was prompted by at least 16 cases where holdout jurors prevented prosecutors from getting a capital punishment verdict, according to House Majority Whip Barry Fleming, the bill's sponsor.

The measure drew criticism from Democrats as well as several Republican prosecutors who worried that the proposal will lead to a flurry of legal challenges and will put a life-or-death decision in the hands of a government official instead of a jury.

State Representative Robert Mumford, a Conyers Republican and former prosecutor, said adopting the bill would be a "defamation" of centuries of American law. Mumford said unanimous juries are a cornerstone of the republic.

But rank-and-file Republican legislators didn't seem swayed, and the House voted 106-65 to approve the bill.

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