Idaho prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in fewer cases since a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said juries, and not judges, must rule in capital cases, according to Patrick Orr's report in the Statesman this morning.
"And rather than take death penalty cases to juries, prosecutors across the state are opting not to pursue executions at all or are agreeing to plea deals that put killers in prison for life," Orr reports.
And since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002 said that juries, not judges, must issue the death penalty, prosecutors around the state have been forced into a guessing game: Even if jurors believe the accused committed the crime, will they pass a death sentence?
So far, only Ada and Canyon counties have asked juries to issue the death penalty, and less than half of those cases resulted in death sentences. Not one of Idaho's 42 other counties has taken a death penalty case to trial.
The subtext here, is that prosecutors in the "good old days" before 2003 had a better read on Idaho judges' feelings on the death penalty than they can now surmise from a jury of our peers.