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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Jury selection begins in Huntsville Massacre

Lawyers for Dr. Amy Bishop, the Butcher of Braintree, are preparing their strategy for selecting sympathetic jurors in her upcoming capital murder trial later this month. Bishop is charged with gunning down her fellow professors at the University of Alabama at Huntsville in 2010 and faces the death penalty in Alabama if convicted.
There are two separate phases of the trial that her defense team has to concern themselves with now: presenting the evidence, which for Bishop is quite damning, and the sentencing aspect itself. They're seeking to mitigate the case for capital punishment against their client with an insanity plea, and, thus, hoping to find jurors who are receptive to the alternative of life in prison without parole.
Lawyers from both sides are permitted a certain number of strikes when selecting prospective candidates from the jury pool, establishing "cause" for eliminating  those individuals they feel are "incapable of being fair" either because they too strongly favor the death penalty or else are staunchly opposed to it on religious or philosophical grounds.
In the end, however, it's typical for jurors with either opposing point of view to be approved and seated, since they're under oath throughout the selection process and have sworn they can consider the facts of the case without bias.
But all this pretrial strategizing may prove for naught anyway because, according to Alabama law, a judge is not bound by a jury's sentencing recommendations. And, should this one feel that Bishop's penalty is too harsh or too lenient, they'll simply overrule it and substitute the form of justice they think is most appropriate.
A decision which can (and most likely will) be promptly appealed, considering that this is such a high profile case and that Bishop has also been charged with a separate homicide conviction for which she must still stand trial in Massachusetts, where she murdered her teenage bother Seth in 1986.

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