The death penalty is a lottery, in which fairness loses and power wins. Under consideration are the supremacy of the parole board, political and media influence on legal decisions and the uneven application of the law on those condemned. Included are consequences of long imprisonment before the death sentence is effectuated and the execution of those suffering from mental illness. The Georgia Board of Paroles and Pardons occasionally grants clemency but, since 1976 when the death penalty was reinstated in the United States, they commuted only nine sentences. Two men have been executed in Georgia in 2015. Andrew Brannan, executed on January 13, was a 66-year-old decorated Vietnam War veteran with no prior criminal record. He suffered from PTSD. Warren Hill was found intellectually disabled yet was executed on January 27. The U.S. Supreme Court banned the execution of people with intellectual disabilities in Atkins v. Virginia (2002), but allowed states to set procedures. Georgia's stringent process requires proof "beyond a reasonable doubt." The fate of the only women now on death row in Georgia, Kelly Gissendaner,will be determined by either a scheduled execution on February 25 at 7 p.m. or commutation. Gissendaner was sentenced in 1997 for planning, not implementing, the death of her then husband. The gunman received a life sentence. If the death penalty is carried out, she will be the first woman executed in Georgia since 1945. A detailed exploration of the issues and outcome of this case will be included in the final paper.
Ruth Johnson Carter, Georgia College & State University, USA
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