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From: myst (
Subject: I personally think it is ridiculous that a jury should be entitled to make sentencing decisions (as opposed to a finding of guilt)
Date: May 15, 2005 at 6:59 pm PST

In Reply to: Re: I wouldn't have believed it would come to this. posted by Keith on April 18, 2005 at 5:15 pm:

and this incident is part of the problem with juries generally. Their deliberations are secret, and most of the time no one knows whether the jury made a decision because they were bullied by a bellicose juror, whether they simply got tired after a while and gave in to an entrenched faction, or in this case, whether they were won over by an appeal to religious doctrine. I imagine it would be very difficult to have sentencing consistency if you have a group of uninformed jurors handling the decisions. On the other hand, at least a judge has to give his or her reasons for a particular sentencing decision, and there is some transparency. I may be mistaken, but I thought that was the case in Canada anyway, so in many ways the situation above may be uniquely American.

The point is, states will generally have legislation governing the imposition of penalties (its usually called something like "the Penalties and Sentences Act"). That legislation may well say something like "Relevant considerations as to whether someone should receive the death penalty are", and would probably include references to previous history, mitigating circumstances surrounding the offence, the nature of the offence itself, expressions of remorse, subsequent attempts at rehabilitation, and so forth.

If a particular juror suggested to the others that they should not follow that legislation, but should instead opt for the death penalty because "thats what the bible says" and then commence a debate around the intepretation of religious scriptures, I would certainly consider that reasonable grounds for appeal.

IMO, The real lesson learned however, is that juries shouldnt be allowed to make sentencing decisions, as is the case in most of the common-law world.

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