The death penalty should be abolished because it is a barbaric practice. I wrote yesterday about the renewed drive to abolish it and later I came across this article that provides another reason to end it, in that prosecutors demanding the penalty results in trials being delayed. This arose in the case of the student who went on a rampage in a high school in Parkland, FL.
It’s been more than 1,000 days since a gunman with an AR-15 rifle burst into a Florida high school, killed 17 people and wounded 17 others.
Yet, with Valentine’s Day on Sunday marking the three-year milestone, the trial of 22-year-old Nikolas Cruz is in limbo.
The case could have been all over by now. Cruz’s lawyers have repeatedly said he would plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. But prosecutors won’t budge on seeking the death penalty at trial.
Even in the best of times, death penalty cases typically take years to go to trial. In Broward County, the average time between arrest and trial is about 3 1/2 years. Some complex cases have taken up to 10 years to get to trial.
“Even if we didn’t have the pandemic to contend with, getting a death penalty case with this many victims to trial, in Florida, would have taken at least this long,” said David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice in Miami. “The deposition process alone can take years, and then there are the experts and mitigation specialists.”
If Cruz is convicted and sentenced to death, the appeals would probably stretch for decades. It’s also possible the case could get reversed and sent back for another sentencing hearing or trial, forcing victims’ families to confront it all again.
Defenders of the death penalty might argue that it is precisely because it is there that Cruz is willing to bargain a guilty plea in exchange for a life sentence. Although that argument makes intuitive sense, the evidence does not seem to support that idea. There is also evidence that some people plead guilty for crimes that they did not commit because they faced zealous prosecutors who threatened them with death if they did not confess.