Wednesday, March 18, 2009

House Considers Changing Unanimous-Jury Requirement for Death Sentences

A bill that would allow prosecutors more options in imposing life-without-parole sentences is in jeopardy because some want to make amendments.

The state House was set to take up a Senate bil that would allow prosecutors to seek life without parole sentences. Currenlty that is only possible if they first ask for the death penalty. But the bill was sent back to committee before reaching the floor.

Motivated by the Brian Nichols case, leading House Republicans want to add an amendment to do away with Georgia's unanimous-jury verdict-requirement in death penalty cases.

The proposed changes have bill sponsor Senator Preston Smith irate. He says the measure was supposed to be a victims' rights bill and House members are quickly turning it into something new.

"This late in the session a bill should not be hijacked that hasn't even come through a committee in either chamber. And so I'm very disappointed and I hope they reconsider that action."

Smith says that if the bill doesn't pass, families of murder victims could see the convicted killers back on the streets. Lawmakers have just 9 legislative days left to pass the bill.

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