Make that several problems.Thereâ€™s a first degree murder trial happening right now. The accused could be sentenced to death if he is found guilty. For a capital trial (one where the prosecution has chosen to seek the death penalty), the prospective jurors must be â€œdeath qualifiedâ€ which means that they both support the death penalty in theory and that they are willing to impose it if the defendant is convicted of first degree murder. What we end up with is a group of people on the jury who are in favor of the death penalty. That in itself is a huge problem because youâ€™ve weeded out those who, for whatever reason, would not condemn someone to die.
Here in PA, itâ€™s getting harder to find enough prospective jurors to fill the jury box. In the ongoing Eric Coxry trial, the judge tossed the majority of prospective jurors because they arenâ€™t willing to say that they would vote for the death penalty. People just arenâ€™t comfortable with that these days. They cite different reasons, and some share multiple reasons. Some say that their religious faith teaches them that the death penalty is wrong, (almost every single religious denomination teaches that the death penalty is immoral and against Godâ€™s will) others worry about executing an innocent person, (weâ€™ve had 142 exonerations of people sentenced to death since 1976), others have talked about the racism, classism and inconsistency of application. Some potential jurors know that the death penalty is not a deterrent and don’t see the point in insisting on something that doesn’t help anyone. Some canâ€™t put a finger on it; they just know in their guts that thereâ€™s something very wrong about the whole thing.
Prosecutors know this, yet, in West Chester, theyâ€™ve chosen to waste resources trying a case capitally. And at what cost? There’s a loud sucking sound as time, talent, money, and patience are pulled in that direction. There are fewer and fewer DAs willing to do so. In fact, some DAs have been told by judges not to seek the death penalty because itâ€™s too expensive and cuts into limited resources that could be spent better elsewhere. I wonder what they’re NOT doing because resources are swallowed up trying to kill someone.
So if we have such a hard time finding jurors willing to participate in it, doesnâ€™t that show that we should get out of the killing business? Let your district attorneys know that they should be using limited resources for a system that works, not one thatâ€™s so broken it canâ€™t be fixed. Our legislators need to follow the leaders in other states who chose to end the death penalty in their states. PA is now almost surrounded by abolitionist states. Letâ€™s join them and end capital punishment.