Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School professor Michael Mears was recently interviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution regarding the decline in death penalty rulings in Georgia and nationwide. Based on a survey designed to track capital punishment nationwide, it appears more juries are less likely to opt for the death penalty. The article stated, “Only twice this year did a Georgia jury choose death as the punishment for murder. Those numbers are consistent with recent years, as the death penalty has been on the wane for more than a decade in Georgia and nationally.”
Viewed as a death penalty expert, Professor Mears said, “Jurors are finally catching on that sentencing someone to death really doesn’t accomplish any sense of justice for the victim’s family. Jurors are beginning to believe that life without parole does mean life without parole. The gloss is off the death penalty in many, many cases and it’s showing up on the number of death penalty cases.”
Professor Mears said he believes the cost of death penalty trials is part of the reason district attorneys are not seeking the punishment as often as they did in the past. He goes on to say a death case can cost $1 million to $1.5 million, including appeals. The article mentioned the death penalty trial of convicted courthouse killer Brian Nichols cost $3.2 million to which Professor Mears responded, “Cases like the Brian Nichols case can break the back of the public defender system.”
Professor Mears teaches Advanced Criminal Procedure, Advanced Evidence, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Evidence at the law school.