Judge Overturns Conviction, Criticizes Decision to Seek Federal Death Penalty

Stating that "this Court is unwilling to contort the law of federal kidnapping," and that federal prosecutors failed to present sufficient evidence to support that charge during the recent capital murder trial of Jay Lentz, a federal judge in Virginia has overturned the jury's guilty verdict in the case. In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee criticized the government for trying what he deemed a local homicide case in federal court. Earlier, the jury had rejected the government's request for a death sentence. (Washington Post, July 23, 2003) Despite a more aggressive pursuit of this punishment by the Justice Department, juries in 16 of the last 17 federal capital trials have declined to impose the death penalty. See Federal Death Penalty.