Baldwin DA: Death-Penalty Process is 'Mind-Boggling'

6:13 PM, Feb 22, 2013   |    comments
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   Capital punishment is reserved for "the worst of the worst," said the district attorney who says he has the highest number of death penalty convictions in Georgia.

    Fred Bright is the District Attorney for the Ocmulgee District, which includes Baldwin, Hancock,  Jones, Putnam and Wilkinson counties.

    Lorra Lynch Jones asked why he thinks execution is an effective choice For those who commit the worst of violent crimes.

    Lorra Lynch Jones: "Now when you're taking a look at whether to seek the death penalty in a case, what legal factors are you looking at?"

  Bright: "Most murder cases are not death penalty by law. They shock the conscience of the community. They're reserved for the worst of the worst, because it is the ultimate punishment.  Double homicides, triple homicides, the Moss family murders in Jones County. Daniel Lucas and Brandy Rhodes came in. Rhodes already been executed. Lucas is on death row.  They killed the whole family that was there. 

 "The last case I tried in Baldwin County, the Brookins case. That was a double homicide.  He killed his estranged wife,  and his step-daughter.  That would be her daughter.

"John Anthony Esposito, Baldwin County.  He killed three people.  So that's one of them.  Multiple murders, murder of a police officer in the course of his duties."

  Bright also explained that while the district attorney decides whether to seek the death penalty, the jury decides whether to impose it.

     He emphasized that the legal standard is that guilt must be proven "100 percent, beyond a reasonable doubt."

    That's why, Bright says, death penalty cases can sometimes linger in the legal system.

    Bright: "The first thing I tell a victim's family, when I meet with them on a death penalty case, is that we'll be there every step of the way. But these cases go on for years, and they have years and years of almost endless appeals.

   "I tell them it's at least 15 years. It could be 20 years. Rhode actually was ten years.  That was fairly quick. It was still too long.

  "If I drew you a matrix of how the appellate system works, it would be a bit mind-boggling. 

    "But the bottom line, you have state appeals, direct appeals.  You have state habeas, you have federal habeas.  And then you have three layers in each system.  The trial court, the court of appeals, and then it always winds up in the United States Supreme Court."

     That was the case with Andrew Cook, whose execution Thursday night was delayed four hours by an appeal to the nation's highest court.

     It will not be the situation though, for Stephen McDaniel, if he is convicted of the 2011 murder of Mercer Law Graduate Lauren Giddings.

     In a surprise announcement Thursday, Bibb District attorney David Cooke announced he will not seek the death penalty against McDaniel, whose accused of dismembering the 27-year old and discarding her body in a dumpster outside her Georgia Avenue apartment in downtown Macon.

     No trial date has been set for McDaniel.

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