Both Robert Aaron Long and Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa were killed in a high-profile shooting attack last month. They were killed. Both crimes revitalized our national debate on guns.
But only one of them has a realistic chance of being sent to death row.
Colorado, where Alissa will face trial, is one of the 23 states that abolished the death penalty. Georgia, Georgia, which has been arrested for a long time, is one of the 27 states still being punished. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, in the past ten years, it is actually a small fraction of the 15 states that have actually executed the death penalty.
Then there is California, where Aminadab Gaxiola Gonzalez was arrested last week on suspicion of killing four people, including a child. The symbolic meaning of the death penalty is far from reality: California Governor Gavin Newsom (Gavin Newsom) ordered a moratorium on the death penalty, and the state has not executed the death penalty since 2006. sentence. Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer (Todd Spitzer) has told reporters that he will consider a death sentence for Gonzalez.
State laws are only part of it, because according to the investigation, the Justice Department may get into trouble and seek the death penalty for federal crimes. The fate of these people will be determined by decision makers, ranging from local district attorneys to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland (Merrick Garland), and will be the latest example of the geographic differences in the death penalty in the United States.
The death penalty is disappearing: Although Georgia still executes the death penalty, since 201
Why are these counties? Some have a large population, which means that more murders can be sentenced to death, and a larger tax base can handle the high cost of death sentences. Last year, a group of scholars led by Frank Baumgartner of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill compiled a database of more than 8,500 death sentences issued nationwide since 1972. They found that counties that lynched during Jim Crow were more likely to be sentenced to death today in the early 20th century. This finding is consistent with the results of other studies. Other studies have shown that there are racial differences in death row cells, and when the victim is white, the possibility of sentence of death is higher.
However, in any case, the most important factor may also be the simplest: who is the prosecutor?
Even if Colorado did not abolish the death penalty last year, Alyssa could almost avoid this fate. Although he was accused of killing 10 people at the Boulder grocery store on March 22, voters and elected officials in the liberal county of Colorado where he was arrested have long opposed the death penalty. The current district attorney even urged President Joe Biden to end the bill at the federal level.
Long face accusations in two counties in Georgia. He allegedly killed four people in Fulton County, including a large area of Atlanta, where all three prosecutor candidates promised to never be sentenced to death last year. In many large cities and counties (including Philadelphia and Los Angeles), there has been a political shift from the death penalty policy.
Texas defense attorney and death penalty policy expert Amanda Marzullo said: “You will reach a broad consensus among prosecutors that the death penalty is unethical, or not worth the money, or that the death penalty is imperative to public safety. The effect is limited.” “In fact, only about 25 counties across the country require the death penalty on a regular basis.”
Long allegedly killed four people and wounded one-fifth in Cherokee County. The county has a Republican District Attorney, Shannon Wallace, who promised in a press release to prosecute the homicide “within the maximum scope of the law.” It is not clear whether Lang’s case is eligible for the death penalty. A Wallace spokesperson will not rule out this possibility and emphasized that these crimes are still under investigation.
Most of the content of this case (whether the accusation will be filed again, whether the victim’s family will disclose it in one way or another) is still unknown, and local observers predict that it will happen between prosecutors in terms of jurisdiction. “Tug of war”.
Anna Arceneaux, executive director of the Georgia Resource Center, said: “Prosecutors only seek death in very few cases.” The center defends people on death row in the state. “This has not only led to geographic differences between states, but also geographic differences between the judicial circuit courts within Georgia.” She said that prosecutors must also consider Lang’s mental health and background, and whether the cost of the death penalty trial can be used. Instead of “prevent further violence against Asian Americans.”
Wallace’s office has no long-term record of death sentences. Scholars have found that the best predictor of whether a county will seek death is whether it has ever done so. Baumgartner said: “Once a county is executed, it becomes better.” Prosecutors use past decisions as a comparison; if the county has sent many people to death row, the threshold may be lowered.
According to Baumgartner (Baumgartner), more than 80 people have been sent to death row in Orange County, California since the 1970s. In the last half-century, the county was responsible for the execution of the state’s 13 executions, and two of the state prosecutors, Todd Spitzer, opposed the state’s moratorium.
In the landmark 2015 death penalty case in Oklahoma, US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in his dissent that today the death penalty may violate the Constitution because it is “arbitrarily imposed” everywhere. of. He cited research recommendations that can explain the death penalty by whether the defense lawyer has sufficient funds or whether the judge is facing political pressure. One scholar used the term “local muscle memory” to describe how various factors inform each other, thus forming a feedback loop.
Justice Anthony Scalia belittled Breyer’s work called “abolitionist studies.” But former Texas Attorney Lynn Hardaway (Lynn Hardaway) pointed out that when considering the justice of the victims, geographical differences may also be a problem, because the victims “do not have the right to decide” where they were killed.
Some prosecutors expressed satisfaction with this difference. Johnny Holmes, a former district attorney in Harris County, Texas, said: “Prosecution is and should be a local issue.” He pointed out that the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution delegates power to states. “That’s why I don’t talk about this issue on national television. This is a Texan’s problem.”
When Houston became the “Capital of Death Penalty,” Holmes’ own office became famous for its death-seeking culture in the 1980s and 1990s. Holmes issued a syringe-shaped pen, and his prosecutor sentenced to death also joined the informal “Silver Needle Association.”
Shannon Edmonds, senior attorney for the Texas Regional and County Bar Association, said: “You will get different judgments between different jurisdictions. However, if each local community believes that these judgments are just results, then it will be Jurisdictions achieve justice. At the micro level, there are gaps even at the macro level.”
In theory, the Department of Justice can alleviate certain geographic gaps, and the Department of Justice can prosecute any state sentenced to death for federal crimes. However, a study did not make the punishment fairer, but showed that there are geographic and racial differences in who is also subject to the federal death penalty.
It is too early to say whether federal prosecutors are trying to define the shooting as a federal crime, but there are many precedents: after the Boston Marathon bombing, even though Massachusetts did not have the death penalty, they sought the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. . Then they murdered Dylann Roof on the grounds that he killed several church members in South Carolina, even though he might face the same punishment in a state court.
These cases occurred under the leadership of President Barack Obama, although he expressed concerns about the final penalty. Although the Biden administration has promised to work hard to end this practice during the election campaign, we still know very little about the Biden administration’s approach to this issue. More shootings will certainly test this promise.