Indiana’s death penalty law could be poised for another dramatic change after of a judge dismissed capital punishment charges against two killers, the Indianapolis Star says. The Indiana Supreme Court will weigh whether a judge should be able to impose the death penalty when a jury deadlocks. “If I were a judge, I would be very concerned about the prospect of getting it wrong,” said Paula Sites of the Indiana Public Defenders Council.
Superior Court Judge Grant Hawkins in Indianpolis found Indiana’s law unconstitutional because it allows judges to order a death sentence when a jury, having convicted someone, can’t reach a decision on the appropriate sentence. The decision threw out the death penalty against convicted murderers Charles E. Barker and Chijoike Bomani Ben-Yisrayl.
In June 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court said that juries must make the final decision to put a person to death. The court did not address the issue of what happens in the event of a hung jury.