RN-T.com – Georgia taking a look its law that forces mentally disabled to prove their status in death penalty cases

28
Oct

RN-T.com – Georgia taking a look its law that forces mentally disabled to prove their status in death penalty cases

Georgia is the only state that requires a defendant to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he or she is mentally disabled and should not be put to death.

Advocates for change to the law recently pleaded their case to a state House committee to lower that high threshold — a discussion state Rep. Christian Coomer said could lead to the submission of a bill to change current law.

“The real issue is, are we going to change our beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard, which is the highest standard?” said Coomer, who serves on the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. “They all came and expressed their hope that we could change our standard.”

Coomer, R-Cartersville, said current law has withstood court challenges. He called the law “sufficient” but noted that laws change as society changes.

Georgia was the first state in the nation in 1988 that banned the execution of the mentally disabled. It now has the strictest law of any state. All other states with the death penalty have a threshold lower than beyond a reasonable doubt.

Lower standards include a preponderance of the evidence, meaning one side must only be more convincing than the other. Clear and convincing evidence requires more proof than a preponderance, though it’s still lower than beyond a reasonable doubt.

Coomer said he has no intention of making a knee-jerk reaction to Thursday’s committee meeting. He expects supporters of a change will draft a bill, and find someone in the state House to sponsor it.

Once a bill has been submitted, Coomer will examine it for strengths and weaknesses.

Ashley Wright, Augusta’s district attorney and president of the District Attorney’s Association of Georgia, opposes changing the law. She pointed to the previous challenges the law has faced, noting it’s survived each one.

via RN-T.com – Georgia taking a look its law that forces mentally disabled to prove their status in death penalty cases.

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