Bob's Links and Rants

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Saturday, October 26, 2002

Fighting over the sniper suspects: Maryland, Virginia, Alabama and the Feds all want a crack at Muhammad and Malvo. Some seem to be arguing that they should be charged in a jurisdiction most likely to give them the death penalty, probably Virginia or Alabama. Just the option of the death penalty in any jurisdiction skews the proceedings, making it more likely that the suspects will cop a plea to save their lives (like John Walker Lindh). While the circumstances of their arrest certainly make them look guilty, we should remember that this is still America, sort of, and they should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The presence of the death penalty increases the chances that they will scared guilty to save their lives rather than proven guilty. The death penalty also guarantees a harsher jury to try the case, if it gets that far, since jurors opposed to the death penalty are not allowed on juries in capital cases. And if somehow these guys have been framed, the injustice of their incarceration would be made irreversible by executing them. Of course, with their pictures plastered all over the papers and CNN, the chances of their getting a fair trial anywhere on the planet are basically zero at this point.