Forecast 2014: Defense Lawyers Focus On Sentencing Issues
This has not been true in the federal courts. In the nearly two years since repeal, the death penalty has been placed on the table in numerous federal cases that, in the past, would likely have been prosecuted in our state courts. When state repeal came in 2012, there was a universal concern among capital defense practitioners that more federal authorizations would be sought. I expect this trend to continue in 2014 and beyond.
The federal government has the right to prosecute those who violate its laws and to seek the most appropriate punishment those laws allow. At the same time, if a federal prosecution is pursued merely for the purpose of seeking or exposing an accused to a death sentence in an otherwise death-ineligible case in state court, priorities should be questioned.
Whether death is infrequently sought in these federal murder cases or this becomes a trend remains to be seen. But this is something that should be watched in the coming year.•