Daily Archives: April 9, 2005

and I was complaining about not getting a raise

David Feige, who authors Indefensible, points to two stories (three actually) highlighting the sad state of public defender systems across the country. The most startling revelation comes from the third story:

Louisiana pays some money for defense of the poor, but most comes from court costs added to some traffic fines.

Traffic fines? Wow.

New bill to amend the death penalty

The Judiciary Committee passed H.B. 6488 [bill text] yesterday in a 39-22 vote. The bill provides that the jury would be discharged if it can’t make a
unanimous decision during the penalty phase of a death penalty case.
The defendant would be automatically sentenced to life in prison
without chance of release.

The bill amends C.G.S. 53a-46a [Imposition of sentence for capital felony. Hearing. Special verdict. Mitigating and aggravating factors. Factors barring death sentence.]

The bill amends the burden of proof for proving mitigating and aggravating factors that lead to the imposition of the death penalty. The defendant has to prove mitigating factors by a preponderance of the evidence and the state has to prove aggravating factors beyond a reasonable doubt.

The bill also clarifies the standard for imposing the death penalty: The jury (or Judge) has to find "beyond a reasonable doubt that such one or more aggravating factors outweigh such one or more mitigating factors and that death is the appropriate punishment in the case."

The bill then adds three subsections to the statute:

(j) If the hearing is conducted before a jury and the jury is unable to unanimously return a special verdict as provided in subsection (e) of this section within a reasonable period of time, the court shall discharge the jury and impose a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of release.

(k) If the hearing is conducted before a jury, the court shall instruct the jury of the sentence that the court will impose pursuant to subsection (f), (g) or (j) of this section.

(l) At the conclusion of the presentation of evidence and prior to closing arguments, the court shall allow the defendant a reasonable opportunity to make a personal statement in his or her behalf to the jury or, if there is no jury, to the court without being sworn or subject to cross-examination.

This bill makes a valiant attempt at making the imposition of the death penalty very difficult. However, the different burdens of proof in the sentencing phase re: aggravating and mitigating factors is sure to meet with resistence. The bill has been referred to the House, so stay tuned.