Typically, when politicians profess not to believe in the death penalty, they carve out a few exceptions, like for cop killers and terrorists. For once, even that isn’t enough. Jereme Lamberth is charged with murdering Colorado Springs Detective Jared Jensen in February of 2006. The prosecutors announced in court today they won’t seek the death penalty. Why? The officer killed opposed the death penalty, as does his widow. And, the accused has an IQ that is one point below that which is considered mentally retarded. The U.S. Supreme Court and Colorado law bar the death penalty for the mentally retarded. The District Attorney also gave this reason:
Colorado law states aggravating factors — such as extreme indifference to human life — must “substantially outweigh” mitigating factors — such as self-defense. Without providing specifics, prosecutors said they would not be able to meet that burden. Defense attorneys have raised the self-defense issue in prior hearings, saying Jensen failed to identify himself as an officer before grabbing and threatening Lamberth.
Fellow police officers and commanders supported the D.A.’s decision. If convicted, Lamberth will face life without the possibility of parole. This sounds like a well-reasoned, just decision to me. Death penalty trials are enormously expensive. If the victim’s family doesn’t want it and the defendant has two viable defenses, why go through the agony — for all concerned, isn’t this the better way?