Fair Punishment Project Report

The “Fair Punishment Project” has published a report on the relationship between individual prosecutors and the frequency and validity of death penalty convictions in particular jurisdictions in the US. Titled “How Overzealous Personalities Drive The Death Penalty,” the report concludes:

“There have always been a tiny handful of prosecutors who pursue death sentences with fervor, and without regard for fairness and accuracy. America’s ve deadliest prosecutors—Joe Freeman Britt, Bob Macy, Donnie Myers, Lynne Abraham and Johnny Holmes—epitomize this over-aggressive and reckless style of prosecution. But this personality-driven feature of the death penalty is visible in other states too, including among prosecutors who continue to seek the death penalty today. These prosecutors are evidence that the application of the death penalty is—and always has been—less about the circumstances of the offense or the characteristics of the person who committed the crime, and more a function of the personality and predilections of the local prosecutors entrusted with the power to seek the ultimate punishment. Their overzealous pursuit of the death penalty does not accurately re ect America’s growing skepticism of the death penalty, nor is it representative of local constituencies that are more attached to the death penalty. It better re ects the lack of meaningful controls on prosecutorial discretion and a lack of consequences for their illegal or unethical behavior. In fact, death sentencing trends in these counties before and after these individuals served as prosecutors demonstrate that these individuals drove these counties to become extreme outliers in their use of the death penalty, and that these counties saw dramatic reductions in capital verdicts as soon as these individual actors were out of the picture. This overzealous, personality-driven, win-at-all-costs pursuit of punishment seriously undermines the legitimacy of the death penalty today.”

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