Archive for Sunday, July 28, 2002

Judge upholds death penalty

July 28, 2002

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— After hearing testimony suggesting that capital murder juries are sometimes biased, a Sedgwick County judge declined to declare the state's death penalty law unconstitutional.

District Judge Paul Clark ruled Friday in the case of Reginald and Jonathan Carr, who are charged with dozens of crimes, including the shooting deaths of four people on Dec. 15, 2000, in a soccer field.

Clark said the dozens of national research studies discussed at a two-day hearing did not give him enough reason to overturn the law. Some of the studies suggested that death penalty juries can be racially biased or unable to follow legal instructions.

"They prove what we all know that people have biases and that they bring them into the courtroom all the time," Clark said. "We can't use (the research) to set aside a system."

During the hearing, a researcher for the Capital Jury Project said some death penalty studies suggest racial bias is strongest in cases such as the Carrs', where victims are white and defendants are black.

Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Kim Parker argued that the research data, much of which came from surveys of former jury members, was incomplete.

"It's an estimate a guess from a very small number of jurors," she said. "Basing a decision on opinion polls flies in the face of what we do in this courthouse and thousands of other courthouses across the United States."

Parker said the U.S. Supreme Court already has upheld the constitutionality of such a system.

In his ruling, Clark said he considered the research and data valid, and said he would consider the findings when preparing a questionnaire that will be distributed to potential jurors in the Carr case.

The Carrs' trial is scheduled to start Sept. 9.

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