Prosecutors Help Drive Down Death Sentences in South Carolina

A recent AP story reports that death sentences and executions are down in South Carolina, due in part to some prosecutors who are  more hesitant to seek the death penalty as they realize it is too costly and uncertain.

South Carolina has had only one execution in the past three years, no one was sentenced to death in 2011, and their death row has declined almost 30 percent since 2005. In 1995, the state abolished the possibility of parole for those sentenced to life imprisonment. South Carolina State Representative Tommy Pope, a former prosecutor, said that once this happened, it “freed prosecutors from feeling compelled to go after the death penalty as often.” He also told victims’ families that a sentence of life without parole  “allowed them a measure of closure that three retrials in a death penalty case never would.”

Prosecutor David Pascoe had planned to pursue the death penalty in the recent case of Shaquan Duley, a woman who killed her two children, but changed his mind after giving it some serious thought. “Once you file for the death penalty, the clock gets moving and the money, the taxpayers start paying for that trial,” said Pascoe.

It is encouraging that prosecutors are acknowledging the problems in our capital punishment system and are more frequently utilizing the less expensive existing alternatives that protect the public while also providing some legal finality for victims’ families.

Photo by: BR WDW

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