September 07, 2004

The Undiscovered Country: Idaho juries to decide who lives or dies

I had the pleasure of seeing a couple of my brother and sister PD's in the Ada County Public Defenders Office yesterday, and catching up on the rest of them.

I hope they've caught up on their rest, because Boise and Ada County are about to embark on the first death penalty trials in the state since Ring invalidated our previous sentencing scheme. The Boise Idaho Statesman has a decent-by-Gannett-Paper-standards article today about the 5 cases in which the Ada County prosecutor is seeking the DP because "it's important to the community."

Coincidentally, Ada County has the biggest population and biggest tax base in Idaho. A prosecutor from a less well-endowed county weighs in, too, which may clue in potential Ada County murderers to take their business just across the county line; geography has made a difference in past Boise-area murder sentences. Holy Equal Protection, your chances of facing the death penalty varying with the solvency of your host county? Who possibly could have predicted that? (scroll down to "Death Penalty (In)Flux")

My good old boss Al gets in a thoughtful allusion to Hamlet (or at least Star Trek VI), while the head state Appellate Public Defender explains the cap fund (which my county opted into), but sounds a bit less than abolitionist about capital punishment:

"Really, when you look at the death penalty cases, they should be for the worst of the worst."

Clumsy me: I thought the death penalty shouldn't be for anybody.

(I'm an abolitionist agnostic myself: I have no doubt that some murderers deserve to die for what they've done, but I don't trust anybody in this existence to decide who to kill. This approach seems about right.)