Appeals, wrongly convicted or not, will be hard to justify
Washington, DC (January 14, 2003) -- In response to today's U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing defendants who have received a life sentence to be re-subjected to the death penalty if the jury vote for life was not unanimous, Chris Adams, Death Penalty Counsel for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, issued the following statement:
"In an era where everyone acknowledges problems in the death penalty, the Supreme Court today took a step away from equal justice, a step away from fairness, and a swipe at the double jeopardy clause in the Bill of Rights.
"The result is that some wrongly accused people will not find competent lawyers willing to take their cases on appeal. Why? Because if they win they will subject their client to the death penalty after the client had previously been sentenced to life without parole.
"Now, in states with a sentencing law like Pennsylvania (and the federal death penalty has this scheme), an inmate whose capital jury is 11-1 for life, who appeals and wins his appeal, can be re-sentenced to death by another jury. Yet the inmate whose capital jury is 11-1 for death and does not appeal, or who loses his appeal, can never be re-subjected to a death penalty prosecution. These inmates, wrongly convicted or not, face death only if they win on appeal.
"Certainly the double jeopardy right was designed to protect people from being more severely punished for winning their appeal."
Adams is a criminal defense lawyer in Georgia. He can be reached at (404) 688-1202.
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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.