Georgia effectively ended capital punishment Wednesday — the capital punishment by lethal injection, anyway — in approving an easier route to life without parole. The House vote was 164-0. The bill had already passed the Senate so it goes now to Gov. Sonny Perdue for his signature.
This means, of course, that Georgia will pass from one generation to the next an aging population of murderers too evil to live free as wards of the state until the end of their natural lives. The public wants them dead, but lacks the stomach, and therefore the will, to return death penalty verdicts. Too, some prospective jurors flat-out opposed to capital punishment lie their way onto juries where they deadlock the panel, no matter the evidence The case that effectively ended the minutes-long form of capital punishment in Georgia was that of Brian Nichols, the mass murderer who killed an Atlanta judge and three others.
Under existing law, a District Attorney had to seek the death penalty before a murderer could be given the sentence of life without parole. That’s expensive and it requires competent, well-prepared prosecutors and honest jurors. The bill passed Wednesday allows DAs to ask for life without parole without having first to seek the death penalty. DAs and capital punishment opponents both supported it.
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, State Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna), said the change will allow victims’ families to have "closure." Right now they’re jerked around mercilessly.
The good news is that Georgia still has the death penalty for those who are truly evil. The bad news is that getting there will require half a century or more, during which time the security, room and board and medical and nursing care are on your tab — and that of the victims’ families.