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February 3, 2007

Background on jury overrides in capital cases

Class ended on Thursday when we were getting to the interesting issue of judicial override of jury recommendations in capital cases.  Though many capital statutes (including Ohio's) allow a judge to override a jury's recommendation of death, only four states permit a judge to to override a jury's recommendation of life.  These states are Alabama, Delaware, Florida and Indiana.

Discussing these dynamics, this 1996 article from the Death Penalty Information Center has this (now dated) statistical account of jury overrides:

In Florida, Alabama and Indiana, where judges are subject to re-election, they have imposed death sentences in 189 cases in which the juries had first recommended life.  Judges reversed death recommendations in only 60 cases.  In Alabama alone, elected judges overturned recommendations of life sentences and imposed death sentences more than ten times as often as they rejected recommendations of death.  The only exception to this trend has been in Delaware, where the judges are not subject to election.  All seven of their jury overrides have been in favor of life sentences.

For a more up-to-date discussion of the jury override issue, check out this post by Professor Dan Filler at Concurring Opinions: The Problem Of Jury Override In Capital Cases.

February 3, 2007 in Who decides | Permalink


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