An Arizona man got the death penalty in a case in which more-culpable co-defendants made plea deals. Cases with defendants of lesser culpability drawing the harshest sentence are common, says the New York Times. Of the six Arizona inmates executed last year, four were equally or less culpable than co-defendants implicated in the same crimes, says Dale Baich of the public defender’s office.
In many of the 32 other states with the death penalty, similar stories unfold as prosecutors weigh the cost of mounting a capital trial, which can reach $1 million, against the likelihood of a conviction. “In an ideal world, the prosecution would have ironclad proof against all the co-defendants to be able to pick the worst for the death penalty, but we have an inequitable system, a bargaining system,” said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., which opposes capital punishment.