Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Looks can kill

"This is the condition where the death penalty was meant to be applied. The crime was so heinous, and there was so little remorse shown on the part of the defendant. He sat there with such a blank look," the juror said.

"The guy continued to stare straight ahead like he was watching a movie. There was just nothing."


The above comments were made by one of the jurors in the Hayes capital case in Connecticut.

The 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides protection against self-incrimination. The attorneys in this case followed the standard pattern of not allowing their client to testify. That is usually a pretty good strategy as defendants are apt to say or do something that is prejudicial to their case. 

On the other hand, the failure of the defendant to testify can sometimes result in a conviction, or in this case, a death sentence. Jurors want the defendant to show remorse if they are going to extend mercy. Many jurors interpret the failure to testify as having no remorse. They also interpret a defendant's demeanor while sitting at the defense table as showing no remorse even though defense attorney's may caution their clients to remain emotionless.

This is a flaw in the 5th Amendment that needs to be addressed in the sentencing instructions to the jury. Looks can kill.

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