Arizona’s 2 1/2-year-old death penalty law under which juries make the life-or-death decision is taking an emotional toll on jurors, says the Arizona Republic. Juries in Phoenix’s Maricopa County are voting for death far more often than their peers in four other states that made a similar change in the law. They are also issuing death sentences more often than judges did. Phoenix area juries have voted the death penalty for 14 of 18 defendants since Aug. 1, 2002. Maricopa County judges who imposed death in 15 percent of cases from 1995 to 1999.
Jurors four months hearing the case against a woman charged with killing her terminally ill husband. He was poisoned, bludgeoned, and stabbed in their apartment while their children, then 2 and 3, slept in a bedroom. One juror, 27, told the Republic that, “After it started to set in that you had to make a decision like this, it became overwhelmingly stressful.” When the deliberations began, only three hurors supported a death sentence, with four favoring a life sentence and the others undecided. Then one juror gave a pivotal speech outlining his reasons for supporting a death sentence, and the vote swung to 11-1 in favor of execution.