Thursday, March 15, 2007

I Have An Issue With Rep. Kevin Levitas

I'm trying to figure out why Rep. Kevin Levitas (D) helped HB 185 make it through committee. HB 185 was introduced by Barry Fleming and sought to reduce the number of jurors required to impose the death penalty to 12 to 9. Whether or not the bill would make it through committee was questionable, but Levitas offered an amendment to change the number of jurors required to 11 of 12 rather than 9 of 12. That change cleared the path for the bill to make it out of committee and most likely to the floor of the Georgia House.

Levitas is a former prosecutor. Maybe that's why he did this. But then, nothing scores more points in politics than being "tough on crime". Democrats have to work especially hard to avoid the "squishy liberal" label. Maybe that why Levitas did it. Maybe he really believes this is the "right" thing. Maybe.

I have to wonder whether Fleming ever thought the bill would pass with the 9 of 12 provision. Sometimes going to an absolutely ridiculous extreme when proposing something controversial is simply a strategy to get the opposition to agree to a "compromise" that was really the goal in the first place. If your opposition carries the "compromise," then all the better.

I disagree with Fleming and with Levitas (and the other eight committee members who voted for this bill). If we want to impose the ultimate punishment, at the very least, ALL the jurors should agree. Most who face the death penalty in Georgia are poor, black and depend on an indigent defense system currently facing a funding crisis. DNA evidence is teaching us that wrongful convictions are, indeed, a real problem. Is this really the time to impose the 100% punishment with less than 100% agreement?

3 comments:

Ann said...

I asked Kevin about this issue. He feels that the oucome resulting from his amendment was the best possible given the composition of the committee. The 9-3 provision most likely would have passed out of committee, and Kevin felt that 11-1 would minimize the adverse impact of the bill. Kevin said that Rep. Fleming, the Whip, spoke out against Kevin's amendment and even had another committee member unsuccessfully offer a substitute. Kevin voted against the Whip's amendment and in favor of a motion to table his bill. He also proposed an amendment to delay the effective date of the bill for almost two years; that was defeated. I think Kevin was being reasonable in the midst of a very difficult debate that looked to to have a bad result.

politically blonde said...

Levitas' votes on the handgun bills, have been most disappointing. I wasn't aware that the NRA was a heavy factor in east Atlanta/Decatur. Or maybe he just doesn't fundamentally believe in child safety measures or concealed weapons laws.

Amy Morton said...

Ann,

I appreciate the information, but in my view, the vote out of committee was 10 to 6, and Roberta Abdul-Salaam was absent. I don't think that either side was sure they had the votes to prevail, but Levitas' amendment assured passage. To me, especially when taken together with other bills that are pending, that 11 of 12 is appreciably better than 9 of 12. And, here's a question I struggle with: does there come a point when we (dems) stop 'fixing' legislation for them?