(The Return of) Ignatz, by Sam Heldman

Sunday, July 28, 2002

Ring, Apprendi, and Death in Alabama We will soon see how the Supreme Court's decision in Ring v. Arizona (holding that findings of aggravating circumstances in death penalty cases must, in general, be made by juries rather than judges) plays out in Alabama. The statute there (go to sec 13A-5-39 et seq.) allows a judge to override a jury's recommendation as between life and death (and it happens with some frequency in Alabama that a jury recommends life but a judge goes for death); for this reason among others, seems like a pretty clear violation of Ring to me. The question, I bet, is whether the AL S.Ct. will rewrite the statute in order to save it, or will strike it down as I think they should (leaving current defendants alive, and putting the issue back in the Legislature). As I understand it, the Court is considering the issue now, having appropriately asked for amicus input from various learned folks including the admirable Equal Justice Initiative. No answer yet -- but according to this news report, the Court sidestepped the issue in one case this week by overriding a judge's override on non-Ring grounds. More on this case when I get the opinion.

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