News Release

Ring decision confirms integral role of jury in death penalty cases

Judges no longer allowed to make finding leading to death penalty 

Washington, DC (June 24, 2002) -- In response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision today that states that a judge, sitting without a jury, cannot make a finding allowing for a death sentence, Natman Schaye, co-chair of the death penalty committee for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, issued the following statement:

"The Supreme Court today recognized the role of the jury as the conscience of the community in the justice system.

"While some state laws had allowed judges to make factual findings on which the death penalty is based, and others allowed a judge to overrule a jury's findings, this puts judge and jury in their proper roles. Judges are often susceptible to public and political pressure, while juries have historically shown independence, and even mercy, in making factual determinations.

"In light of the multitude of flaws and inaccuracies shown in the death penalty system, it is essential that the voice of the community itself is consulted before a human being is condemned to death."

The case is Ring v. Arizona, No. 01-488. 

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NACDL Communications Department

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.