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When sentencing, should juries hear testimonies on death penalty procedures?

by AirTalk®

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Accused movie theater shooter James Holmes makes his first court appearance at the Arapahoe County on July 23, 2012 in Centennial, Colorado. Pool/Getty Images

The trial of the alleged Aurora theater shooter is still months away, but the prosecution has already asked the judge to bar witness testimony concerning death penalty procedures if James Holmes is convicted. Holmes is accused of killing 12 people and injuring dozens more when he opened fire on a theater full of people watching a Batman movie. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but the prosecution is pursuing the death penalty.

In Colorado, death penalty laws have come under fire. And in multiple states such as California, Missouri, Texas, Ohio, and Arkansas, the humaneness of lethal injection drugs are under scrutiny. By motioning to bar testimonies about death penalty procedures, the prosecution is launching a preemptive strike to ban these current controversies from entering this trial.

However, if a jury is deciding between the death penalty and a life sentence, do they have the right to know about the intricacies of the options? Or would all these details distract from the case itself?


Nancy Haydt, criminal defense attorney who specializes in death penalty cases; she has practiced in California, Colorado, and federally; she is also on the Board of Governors for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice

Brian Gurwitz, criminal defense attorney and former Senior Deputy District Attorney for Orange County

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