Juries Reject Death Penalty in Nearly All Federal Trials

Juries in 15 of the last 16 federal capital trials have declined to impose the death penalty, despite a more aggressive pursuit of this punishment by the Justice Department. Since President George Bush took office, 15% of the capital trials have resulted in death sentences, compared to 46% of cases in which the death penalty was sought from 1988 to 2000. Legal experts believe that overreaching by prosecutors and some jurors' growing unease with the death penalty may account for the trend. Former U.S. Attorney Alan Vinegrad noted, "It reflects that the tide is turning in this country with regard to attitudes about the death penalty. There has been so much publicity about wrongfully convicted defendants on death row that people sitting on juries are reluctant to impose the ultimate sanction."

(New York Times, June 15, 2003) See Federal Death Penalty and Innocence.