Thursday, August 26, 2004

Wither the death penalty?

We have two executions scheduled tonight, one in Texas, the other in Oklahoma. That's the bad news.

The good news is that the number of death sentences being sought by prosecutors and handed down by juries really seems to be on the decline. Our friends over at the Death Penalty Information Center brought this to my attention with something they just posted to their web site:

Death sentences have declined across the country. The following four cases are recent illustrations of this trend:

In Cook County, Illinois, a judge sentenced Ronald Hinton to life without parole, citing abuse in the defendant’s background and his remorse for the crimes. Hinton admitted to three murders. (Chicago Tribune, August 25, 2004).

In Butler County, Ohio, a three-judge panel sentenced Tom West to life without parole for a shooting spree at a trucking company in which two people were killed and three others wounded. Costs of the trial, the agreement of the victims’ families, and the defendant’s mental illness were cited as reasons for the plea agreement. (Cincinnati Enquirer, August 24, 2004).

In Crown Point, Indiana, Stephen Richards pleaded guilty and will be sentenced to life without parole for the shotgun slaying of two people over a sack of coins. Victims’ family members agreed to the plea arrangement. (, August 24, 2004).

In San Mateo, California, prosecutors announced that they would not seek the death penalty against Seti Scanlan despite Scanlan’s begging the jury to sentence him to death. Prosecutors cited costs and the uncertainty of getting a death verdict. A victims’ family member was quoted as agreeing with the decision. (San Jose Mercury News, August 24, 2004).

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