Friday, May 20, 2011

Phrasing of Death Penalty Intent Notice Does Not Violate Establishment Clause

The Dexter (MO) Daily Statesman reported yesterday that a Bloomfield, Missouri state judge has denied a motion by attorneys for accused killer Allen "Smurf" McCoy challenging on Establishment Clause grounds the state's death penalty intent notice. In it the state alleged that by murdering an individual known to be handicapped and in ill-health, McCoy showed "depravity of mind and a callous disregard for the sanctity of all human life." McCoy's attorney argued that using the term "sanctity of life" favors religion, and that if the phrase were used in jury instructions, it would make a juror who lacked religious belief unable to render a verdict because the juror would not recognized the "sanctity" of all life. The court ruled that this was merely a reference to the "specialness" of life. Defendants are expected to appeal.