I’ve been talking about the Democratic side of the Attorney General election for too long. But what about the Republic side? Georgia is such a red state, that the Democratic ticket is largely irrelevant anyway. Meanwhile, the Republicans are in a run-off. And, as Republicans are apt to do when they square off, the candidates are starting to compete to see who is more enthusiastic about killing criminal defendants.
Austin Rhodes, an Augusta, Georgia, conservative talk show host published a letter from Barry Fleming, legal counsel to the Georgia House of Representatives, to Sam Olens, Preston Smith’s rival for Georgia Attorney General. In the letter, Fleming tells Olens that Smith blocked passage of a bill that would have allowed juries to recommend a death sentence by less than a unanimous vote from the jury.
Fleming alleges that Smith “killed the bill in his committee” (Not kidding. He said “killed”) by waiting until Republican senators left the committee room to call it for a vote where democrats could vote against it.
Smith maintains that the bill would have created expensive litigation in death penalty cases over the law’s constitutionality — particuarly given the fact that the bill would have allowed the judge to decide whether to impose the death penalty in the event of a non-unanimous death verdict. The bill would also have put Georgia in a minority of states that allow the death penalty to be imposed after a non-unanimous verdict. Of the 35 States that have the death penalty, few allow for non-unanimous death verdicts. Georgia lost a rare opportunity to distinguish ourselves as being politically more conservative than Alabama.
While it is fun for Republicans to compete to see who loves the death penalty more, they don’t seem to want to talk about the fact that life for a Georgia death penalty defendant in Georgia involves more or less taking up permanent residence in a county jail for years at a time with a lawyer the State refuses to pay. The constituency these guys are competing for think that it’s silly that the State pays for the lawyer anyway.
So, Senator Smth’s death-cred has been called in to question. When Republicans start attacking each other this way, bad stuff can happen.
I’m going to take this opportunity to predict what Smith will do next to get his death-cred back:
- He will try to get an actual execution set before the run-off, where he will stand in as a substitute to administer the lethal dose to the inmate — the ultimate red state photo op
- He will photo-shop himself into Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will, to win back all the Tea Party Republicans who were likely swayed by Fleming’s letter. Sure, it was filmed in 1934, but most of those people think that the universe is only 4000 years old anyway. So, the date won’t be a huge problem. A little sleight of hand will be all it takes to get around the date problem.
Of course, none of the above may be necessary if cooler Republican heads prevail such as Bob Barr, who wrote an a letter to the editor of the Fulton Daily Report supporting Smith stance on non-unanimous verdicts.
Man, this general election is going to be fun between Hodges and allegations that he monkeyed around with a grand jury proceeding involving a police officer who shot an unarmed man and these Republicans who want to compete to see who is more in favor of killing defendants than the other.
This whole thing is going to make life fun for me in future habeas proceedings and murder appeals no matter which person wins this election.