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Congress to consider allowing prosecutors multiple tries at federal death sentences

[JURIST] US Senate and House negotiators are preparing to discuss conflicting versions of the USA PATRIOT and Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2005 [bill summary], including a provision in the House version [PDF text] that would allow federal prosecutors multiple attempts at securing the death penalty. Under current law, if a capital jury cannot decide unanimously whether to impose the death penalty, the convicted defendant automatically receives a life sentence. Rep. John Carter (R-TX) [official website] successfully introduced amending legislation [press release] that would instead allow a prosecutor to empanel a new sentencing jury if at least one juror voted for the death penalty. Carter says the proposal is a "common-sense clarification to the federal death penalty," though critics of the provision say that it will only add to the advantages that prosecutors have in obtaining the death penalty. Several states, including California, already allow prosecutors to seek new capital sentencing hearings. An agreement between the Senate and House must be reached before key provisions of the Patriot Act [text] expire at the end of this year. Wednesday's New York Times has more.

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