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Wednesday
Jan062010

Richard Dieter "2009 Death Penalty Information Center Report"

The Death Penalty Information Center released its "The Death Penalty in 2009: Year End Report” on December 18, noting that the country is expected to finish 2009 with the fewest death sentences since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. Eleven states considered abolishing the death penalty this year, a significant increase in legislative activity from previous years, as the high costs and lack of measurable benefits associated with this punishment troubled lawmakers.

(DPIC) According to media coverage of report, many of those in law enforcement and prosecution agree with some of the themes in the report:

Vic Wisner, a former assistant district attorney in Houston, said that jurors' views are changing on the death penalty: "[A] constant drumbeat" about suspect convictions and exonerations "has really changed the attitude of jurors. . . .There is a real worry by jurors of, ‘I believe in it, but what if we later find out it was someone else and it’s too late to do anything about it?’" - (N.Y. Times, December 18, 2009).

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Prince William County (VA) Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebbert, known for his support of the death penalty, said that prosecutors from across the state are mentioning that tight budgets have discouraged them from pursuing protracted capital punishment cases, "They feel like they just don't have the manpower in their office to go through the long, long hearings."  (Washington Post, December 18, 2009).

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Los Angeles County (CA) District Attorney Steve Cooley said his office is seeking the death penalty less, "We started being more selective and more rigorous in our review. It's certainly not being more aggressive." -  (Los Angeles Times, December 19, 2009).

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Robin Piper, a prosecuting attorney in Butler County (OH) noted that life without parole sentences are becoming a better option for many jurors, especially as the facts of the case emerge. "For those jurors who are potentially squeamish or reluctant to sit in judgment or to exercise the death penalty, life in prison without parole becomes a very viable option they can feel safe and secure with." -  (Associated Press, Dec. 18, 2009).

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Shannon Edmonds, legislative director of the Texas District and County Attorney's Association indicated the high cost of pursuing a death sentence has deterred prosecutors, "Life without parole is a palatable alternative, especially in rural counties with smaller budgets," Edmonds said. (Dallas Morning News, Dec. 18, 2009).

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Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray said, "I think (the life without parole option) is a very significant factor in what's changed the landscape in states like Ohio."  He noted prosecutors have been able to seek life without parole without also seeking the death penalty since 2005. (Middletown Journal, Dec. 18, 2009).

 



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