Target: Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell, head of the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice
Goal: Don’t ban those opposed to capital punishment from participating in death-qualified juries.
People who are unalterably opposed to the death penalty are not allowed to be jurors in cases where the defendant faces capital punishment. This means people who have come to oppose the death penalty through extensive research are not permitted to take part, even if they know a great deal more about capital punishment than those who have less certainty about the issue. In addition to potentially giving the defendant an unfair trial, this ban denies representation to a group of people based on their beliefs. It is vital that those who are unalterably opposed to the death penalty be allowed to participate in cases which may result in the death of a human being.
Just because some people oppose the death penalty in all situations, does not mean they fail to examine the way it applies to each specific case. Instead, it could very well mean that the reasons they oppose the death penalty apply to all cases. These reasons could include the lack of evidence supporting the death penalty’s ability to deter crime, or the possibility of innocent people being wrongly sentenced to death. Additionally, do those who are allowed on the jury know anything about these concerns? It is unfair to the defendant to allow only jurors who either do not know about these concerns, or who ignore them.
Opponents of the death penalty may have valid concerns that should be represented in the courtroom. Preventing those who oppose the death penalty in all cases from participating in death-qualified juries is unfair to defendants, and to those who oppose the death penalty unalterably.
Urge the head of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice to take necessary steps to remove the ban on those unalterably opposed to the death penalty from serving as jurors in capital cases by signing the petition below.
Dear Assistant Attorney General Caldwell,
Banning those who unalterably oppose the death penalty from serving as jurors on capital cases is unjust. Those who oppose the death penalty under all circumstances may do so because they’ve conducted a greater amount of research on the death penalty and its flaws than individuals who support the death penalty in some cases. It is unethical to deny people representation for holding a belief strongly, especially when they may do so because they’ve taken the time to become especially informed.
Those who oppose the death penalty unalterably may do so, not because they fail to see how it applies to the differences in each case, but because they have informed concerns that are often bigger than any individual case. For example, they may note that capital punishment has not been proven to deter crime, or they may have researched methods of execution and realized that all methods have the potential to inflict extreme and gruesome suffering. When strong opponents of the death penalty are prevented from serving as jurors, important voices are silenced. Additionally, the larger community affected by a capital case may not be accurately represented by a jury consisting only of those who believe capital punishment is sometimes appropriate.
I am urging you to make it a priority of the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice to remove the ban that prevents those who unalterably oppose the death penalty from serving as jurors in capital cases. Please ensure trials that could result in the death of a human being are conducted in a fair manner.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Megan via Flickr