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Symposium Advocates Unanimous Jury Verdicts in Death Penalty Cases

November 14th, 2011 by Mike Vasilinda

Convicted Killer Oba Chandler is set to be executed on Tuesday.  All twelve jurors unanimously agreed Chandler brutally murdered an Ohio woman and her two daughters and deserved death. But as Mike Vasilinda tells us, a panel of experts believes that Chandler is one of the rare cases in which all the jurors agreed.

Oba Chandler’s jury found his crime so heinous, that all 12 jurors said he deserved to die. But even Ted Bundy’s jury was split 10-2 on death. In most states that would have saved Bundy, but not in Florida.

Meeting in the shadow of the state capitol, judges, lawyers, prosecutors and others debated how the death penalty is imposed.

“It’s the least that we can ask, that before we give the ultimate sentence to someone, that we require a unanimous verdict,” Sen. Thad Altman (R-Brevard) said.

At 24, Florida leads the nation in death row exonerations. Faulty eyewitness testimony is often the blame.

“The mind is not like a tape recorder,” Mike Minerva with the Innocence Project said. “It does not retain whatever images the person thought that they had

The experts say one of the biggest determinants of who gets death is simply which county your tried in.

Judge O.H. Eaton is a retired circuit judge from Seminole County with doubts.  For 15 years he has taught a required class for judges that qualifies them for murder cases.

“That whether a person lives or dies has more to do with the judicial assignment than the facts of the case,” Eaton said. “Now, if that doesn’t show you that we’ve got a broken system, I don’t know what does.”

No one on the panel expects change to come rapidly, but they say it’s important to start a conversation.

Legislation to require unanimous jury verdicts has failed to get a hearing. And one effort to abolish the death penalty was voted down 117 to 2 last year.

Posted in Criminal Justice, State News | 6 Comments »

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