The Dallas Morning News Publishes Op-Ed by Mark MacDougall and Abigail Kohlman on New Death Penalty Legislation

The Dallas Morning News has published the op-ed “New bill would give federal prosecutors a do-over for the death penalty,” written by Akin Gump litigation partner Mark MacDougall and associate Abigail Kohlman. The column discusses legislation in the U.S. Senate that would give federal prosecutors the option of picking a second jury in a capital trial if the first jury cannot reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty.

Current federal law requires that a jury verdict of death in a capital trial be unanimous, and MacDougall and Kohlman write that if 12 jurors cannot agree on a sentence, “the defendant is automatically sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.” They note, however, that if the bill in question were enacted, it would face “serious constitutional hurdles while raising stark questions of fundamental fairness and due process.” Giving prosecutors a second chance to convince a jury to impose a death sentence, they add, “will only make a broken federal death penalty system substantially more expensive.”

MacDougall and Kohlman proceed to cite statistics about the cost of carrying out the death penalty—which one report says is about eight times greater for the trial defense in a federal death case than a federal murder case in which death is not sought—as well as the low rate at which it has been imposed. They conclude by writing that giving prosecutors “the opportunity to double-down for death – when they cannot convince a jury on their first try – will only add to the cost of a system that can never really work.”

A different version of this op-ed was published in The Philadelphia Inquirer.