Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard wants the law changed to allow 10-2 verdicts in death penalty cases.
Legislature Urged to Revamp Death Penalty Law
District Attorney Paul Howard called for the state Legislature Saturday to change Georgia’s death-penalty law requiring a unanimous jury decision for a defendant to be sent to Death Row.
By a 9-3 hung jury decision on Friday, Howard lost a lengthy and costly effort to have Brian Nichols sentenced to death for the March 11, 2005 Fulton County Courthouse killings.
Howard said a minority of jurors were determined that Nichols get a life sentence, whether or not he deserved to be sentenced to death.
Jurors discuss the stress of being one of the few who don't vote with the majority.
Holdout Jurors Face Pressure
Elizabeth Strong knows what it’s like to be confined in a room and look across a table at angry faces. Strong was the lone holdout juror two years ago in a horrific and emotionally charged Fulton County case in which two teens were accused of duct-taping and broiling a puppy in an oven. Her stand caused angry shouting matches over three days of deliberations and caused a mistrial after which she was roundly criticized.
The 70-year-old grandmother was thinking of that ordeal last week as the jury in the death penalty trial of courthouse killer Brian Nichols remained deadlocked 9-3.
“I feel for those jurors (in the minority); I know they are catching it,” she said. “I’m glad I’m not on this one. Ours was hard enough. But this is human beings.”
Expert discussing jury dynamics during deliberations.
2 Jurors Likely Dominating Debate, Expert Says
Of the 12 jurors who are deadlocked on whether Brian Nichols should be put to death, as few as two probably are dominating the debate, an expert says. And time may be the crucial element in whether dissenting jurors hold out or ultimately join the majority in a verdict, said juror attitude researcher John W. Clark III. The Nichols jury Thursday said it was deadlocked 9-3 on Nichols’ punishment. The same jury earlier found him guilty of murdering four people, including a judge, in his escape from a rape trial at the Fulton County courthouse.
The guilty verdicts depended more on evaluating evidence, and the jurors now are into emotional territory, Clark said.“You’ve probably got two people who are fighting — one for the nine and one for the three,” said Clark, the criminal justice program coordinator for the Atlantic region of Troy University, based in Norfolk, Va.