Life without parole could be an option for prosecutors, when it comes to aggravated murder cases.
Senate Bill 13, sponsored by Sen. Preston Smith (R-Rome), passed the Senate by a vote of 54 to 0 today.
Now, Senator Smith does not intend to ban the death penalty, but that’s what’s happening based on his actions and those of his fellow Republicans.
Smith has been working to cut judiciary budgets and freeze public defender pay. I’m hearing from a number of judges that because of actions they attribute to Preston Smith and his cohorts in the General Assembly, it is becoming more and more likely that the federal judiciary will probably shut down Georgia’s death penalty.
The state won’t pay for lawyers for death penalty cases, which means cases stay on hold. At some point the failure to try the case gives the judges no choice but to let the accused out of jail, etc.
Now, as I said earlier, I’m not one to believe judges should be able to order the legislature to spend money. That said, each defendant in a death penalty case gets his own two person team of lawyers. Those lawyers cannot be connected to each other in the same office. They all get resources to investigate and defend. As a result, they have to have money. I know of some cases where the defense attorney hasn’t been paid in over a year.
The failure to find the funding will shut down death penalty cases.
So, in reality though they would prefer to deny it, because the Republicans won’t spend the money, they are in effect shutting down the death penalty in Georgia.