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Death Penalty is Not Reserved for the Worst Offenders- Determined by Race and Geography

Today, attorneys working on behalf of Marcus Reed filed this Response to the State of Louisiana’s brief at the United States Supreme Court.  Marcus Reed was convicted and sentenced to death in the same parish, by the same prosecutor as Rodricus Crawford and Lamondre Tucker.  The cases were identified in this piece by Maurice Chammah in the Marshall Project, Could One of these Cases Spell the End of the Death Penalty.  In the filing today, Reed’s lawyers argued:

Now is the time; and this is an appropriate case for this Court to consider whether the evolving standards of decency render imposition of capital punishment in a non-terrorism, non-treason case unconstitutional.

Marcus Reed, an African American man from Caddo Parish, was represented at trial by two attorneys who were responsible for more than one quarter of the death sentences in Louisiana between 2009 and 2014. Reed was at his house, late at night, when three teenagers drove up his driveway. It was uncontested at trial that one of those teenagers had burglarized Mr. Reed's house that same day. Reed's defense at trial was that the teenagers inteded to rob him again, or commit another violent felony at his home, that he had told them to stay away, begged them not to come, and shot them in the dark when they arrived. In this case, where Mr. Reed's only defense was that the killings were justified, the Louisiana Supreme Court acknowledged that "defense counsel arguably made a professional error by failing to request instructions under Louisiana's Stand Your Ground Statute."

Reed's case demonstrates that the death penalty in America is not reserved for the worst offenders, but occur as a result of the arbitrary circumstances of race and geography.