In response to my argument that no death sentence should be imposed unless the defendant’s guilt is proved with absolute certainty, some have argued that my standard is unworkable. I disagree. How can we know who is right?
One way is to ask someone who has actually been on a jury that imposed the death penalty on someone. So when commenter George S. left a comment on my blog saying that he had been on such a jury, I sent him an e-mail which said:
Thanks for your comment. I am interested to know whether you would have convicted your defendant, and sentenced him to death, applying a standard of beyond all possible doubt. What about the other members of the jury? Could you leave a comment on the blog, or respond in an e-mail that I can quote in a post? It’s important to the debate. Thanks.
This was a case of “Beyond all Doubt.” The first poll of the jury after selection of a leader was 12 for guilty. We played devil’s advocate for a while but all agreed very strongly on the guilt. At the sentencing phase the result of the first poll was death (as opposed to a prison sentence of life) (it wasn’t discussed but I think all the jurors knew that it would be less than “life”). We again discussed it in great detail, the pros and cons and should we or shouldn’t we. Every poll (of several) agreed to the death penalty.
It’s hardly a comprehensive survey, but George S. has more relevant experience than most commenters here on the issue of what it’s like to confront these issues in the real world.