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Only Juries Can Impose a Death Sentence

September 05, 2003

The decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn more than 100 death sentences (Sept. 3) met with immediate protest from capital punishment supporters, but the court made the correct decision. In Ring vs. Arizona (2002), the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional for judges rather than juries to impose death sentences. Those criticizing the current ruling argue that the Ring decision applies only to new sentences, but that position is unsupportable. There have been no changes in the Constitution in the time that these men have been in prison that have any bearing on the case.

Therefore, if the process of judges imposing death sentences is unconstitutional now, it must have been unconstitutional when these men were sentenced. Had the court maintained these sentences, the decision would contradict the decision handed down by the Supreme Court just last year.

David Holland

Northridge

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