Originally created 02/09/02

Stiffen death penalty



Is it open season on South Carolina law enforcement officers? Sometimes it seems that way. Four of them have been gunned down the past month in one of the most violent stretches in the state's history.

The killings have prompted a move in the General Assembly to allow a judge to sentence a convicted murderer to death if the jury is less than unanimous in recommending capital punishment.

The measure, backed by many state law enforcers and prosecutors, triggers the judge's life-or-death ruling when a penalty trial yields an 11-1 pro-death verdict.

This is a good bill, the likes of which we also support in Georgia when it comes up. If a dissenting juror can't persuade one more to join him, then he's either irrationally stubborn or lied when asked if he was ideologically opposed to the death penalty.

The bill's backers cited a 1997 Greenville trial in which a cop-killer received a life term even though the jury voted 11-1 for death. Many lawmakers - hopefully enough to pass the measure - don't want to see that repeated in future cop-killing cases.