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April 5, 2005

Jury sentencing and apologies, Texas-style

This article on the jury sentencing of a defendant for murder from the Texarkana Gazette provides a great reminder that Texas (as well as a few other states) has long had true jury sentencing for certain crimes.   As noted in this post nearly a year ago (before Blakely), Professor Nancy King has done ground-breaking work examining non-capital jury sentencing, which she and her co-author right describe as "one of the least understood procedures in contemporary American criminal justice."

In addition, as the newspaper article details, the sentencing involved an (unaccepted) apology from the defendant, who was convicted of murdering a long-time friend during an intoxicated scuffle:

Barfield took the stand during the punishment phase of his trial and expressed sorrow to Burns' family.  "I wish I was dead. I'm so sorry this has happened," he testified.  Acknowledging he is an alcoholic, Barfield testified that he has been sober since the shooting.  "I have not touched a drink since that tragic night and I never will again. I will never touch a gun the rest of my life," he said....

Burns' ex-wife. Donna Burns, addressed Barfield on behalf of the Burns family after the sentence was handed down.  She told Barfield he has shown no remorse for the killing. "This has all been about Arnold.  You should be ashamed for the position you put your family in. You are the biggest coward in Bowie County," she said....

Burns also told Barfield he will never have her forgiveness for the pain he has caused Burns' son Cody.  She told Barfield birthdays and holidays are spent at the cemetery.  "Knowing you are in your own private hell is some comfort because you put us in ours," she said.

These passages provide a fascinating case-specific perspective on this week's debate between Professors Richard Bierschbach and Michael O'Hear addressing "Will An Apology Save you From Jail?" taking place at the Legal Affairs' Debate Club.  That debate, which I first noted here, is already hashing through a number of important sentencing issues.

April 5, 2005 at 10:51 AM | Permalink


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