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October 31, 2009

Murder victims' son seeking to advocate against death penalty

A helpful reader forwarded to me this interesting story out of California, which is headlined "Don't execute killer, slain El Cerrito couple's son says."  Here is the start of the piece:

The 20-year-old son of a slain El Cerrito couple is fighting to speak against imposing the death penalty on the uncle who killed his parents, testing for the first time a state law that gave crime victims a greater voice in legal proceedings.

Eric Rogers is scheduled to testify for the prosecution next week during the penalty phase of the murder trial of Edward Wycoff, a 40-year-old Sacramento County truck driver convicted Monday of two counts of first-degree murder for killing his sister and brother-in-law, Paul and Julie Rogers, on Jan. 31, 2006.

While legal precedent limits Eric Rogers to testifying only to the impact the murders have had on his life, Rogers said he wants to tell jurors that he doesn't want Wycoff executed.  His parents were strongly opposed to the death penalty, as is he, he said. "I think revenge would bring me closer to the status of my uncle and further from the status of my parents," Eric Rogers told the Times.  "To be vengeful in their name would be disrespectful."

Rogers hired Berkeley attorney Ted Cassman to argue that he has a right to voice his opposition to capital punishment under Marsy's Law, also known as Proposition 9 or the Victim's Rights and Protection Act of 2008, which voters approved last November.  Marsy's Law gives victims the right to be heard at any legal proceeding.  Beyond Rogers' belief that the death penalty is wrong, such a sentence would cause Rogers more pain by subjecting him to 10 to 20 years of appeals on Wycoff's behalf, Cassman said.

Wycoff prosecutor, Mark Peterson, argues that case law states that jurors need to decide whether a defendant deserves death, not how a death sentence would impact others.

October 31, 2009 at 05:16 PM | Permalink

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Comments

I doubt Prof. Berman would post an article about family members seeking the death penalty for the murderer that destroyed their lives. In the absence of such balance, this article is meaningless propaganda reflecting academia's love of evil and hatred for our country.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 31, 2009 6:22:56 PM

It's Halloween SC. How could we not engage in meaningless propaganda to support evil?

Posted by: The Dark Lord | Oct 31, 2009 11:54:20 PM

I doubt that any crime victim who favored the death penalty appealed a prosecutor's allowance of saying so. Anyone know of a case where the defense appealed the crime victim calling for death? It had to happen sometime.

Posted by: George | Nov 1, 2009 6:15:22 PM

George,

Sorry I don't have a cite handy, but off the top of my head, I think a SCOTUS case called Booth said you can't introduce "victim-impact" evidence about the effect of the crime on the family, nor can you elicit opinions of the family members about whether death should be imposed. A case called Payne then overruled Booth as to most victim-impact evidence, but not as to the offering of an actual opinion. So, you can walk up to the line, but you can't technically cross it. It is possible that, as a matter of constitutional law, Booth just means you can't have the victim call for death, whereas having the victim ask for life would be OK; after all, rules are often asymetric in capital sentencing---aggravators must be ennumerated, while mitigation can be anything, etc.

Speaking of asymetry, I'm wondering whether the defense bar in that county will remember this case whenever this prosecutor seeks to use the desire of the victims as leverage in seeking enhanced punishment in other cases.

Posted by: anon | Nov 2, 2009 10:35:47 AM

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