Statement of Stephen B. Bright, President and Senior Counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights.
“It is very difficult to convince 12 people to take the life of another person. That’s because every person is more than the worst thing that he has ever done – even those who have committed horrendous crimes. Killing another human being is the absolute last resort. And because of life imprisonment without parole, the jury was not required to resort to the death penalty to punish and to protect the community.
It is unfortunate that this case was not resolved three years ago with a guilty plea and this same sentence. The healing could have started then. Instead, the wounds left by Nichols terrible crimes have been irritated over and over. And for no purpose except to have a show trial at enormous expense that has damaged Georgia’s court system in many ways. It has severely damaged the system for providing lawyers for poor people accused of crimes. The demagoguery of some legislators has damaged judicial independence and the rule of law.
Fortunately, because of this verdict, there will not be years of appeals, perhaps a retrial, and in 10 or 15 years an execution in the midst of a circus-like atmosphere.
Brian Nichols can be sent to a prison cell and forgotten. And everyone touched by his terrible acts can move on with their lives.
There are other cases as bad or worse in which the death penalty was not imposed. The Unabomber was not sentenced to death. Timothy McVeigh’s co-defendant in the Oklahoma City bombing, Terry Nichols, was not sentenced to death by either federal or state juries for the deaths of 168 people. The death penalty is not imposed on people guilty of war crimes who have killed hundreds.”