Friday, July 12, 2002

Think First, Execute Later

We highly recommend Thomas Sullivan's Think First, Execute Later in today's National Law Journal.

Sullivan served on Illinois Governor George H. Ryan's Commission on Capital Punishment. The Commission issued a report recommending 85 reforms. Sullivan calls the report "a wake-up call for every state with the death penalty."

Mr. Sullivan outlines some of the reforms, concluding with:

"Regardless of one's views about capital punishment, we can all agree that its imposition should be fair, just and accurate. But this requires a nationwide commitment. The findings of the Illinois commission provide a well-researched guide for reforms."

In other death penalty news, the states are beginning to revamp their laws as a result of the recent Supreme Court ruling that only juries can determine facts necessary to impose the death penalty. Some will pass constitutional muster (for now) and others will likely fail.

Colorado is in the forefront of taking the safe route and returning to a unanimous jury system. We don't often agree with Governor Bill Owens, but we praise him for taking this position. Of course, he did it because he wanted a new law that allows Colorado to resume legally killing people as soon as possible. We want the death penalty abolished, but since it appears we are going to have one for a while, let's make it as fair as possible and that means putting the fact-finding and decision in the hands of a jury for a unanimous decision.

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