Gang membership could be reason for death penalty

By WALTER C. JONES
Morris News Service
ATLANTA – Prosecutors could use gang membership as a reason to ask juries to sentence a convicted murderer to lethal injection under legislation introduced Wednesday.
Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, introduced House Bill 355 which adds gang membership to the list of 12 “aggravating circumstances” juries can consider during sentencing in a capital case. Other examples include kidnapping and conspiracy.
Fleming said he also wants to add another circumstance in a future bill, torture.
“When I went to the gang prosecutors of the state and asked them ‘What changes do you need to better protect us from gangs,’ they gave me several things,” he said. “The easiest and most simple one was this to begin with.”
The bill draws on a definition of gang membership contained in a law he helped pass when he was in the House of Representatives earlier.
He believes the new bill will bring attention to a growing issue. He said experts estimate that as much as 90 percent of crime is connected to gangs.
Metro Atlanta has about 40 gangs, and other cities like Augusta could have half that many.

He expects opposition to his bill, especially from death-penalty opponents.

Larry Pellegrini, executive director of the Georgia Rural Urban Summit advocacy group, is already taking a stance against Fleming’s bill.

“Adding to the death penalty over the years has never been a solution to the problems of violence in society, and this is another misguided effort to look tough and feel tough and not do much,” Pellegrini said.

Fleming is considering sponsoring another bill that Pellegrini and other capital-punishment foes have opposed over the years. That bill would allow a judge to impose the death penalty even if the jury is not unanimous.

Fleming sponsored similar bills that passed the House in 2007 and 2008 but died in the Senate.



More Local

Suspicious man in van not a threat

This week, a number of SummerGrove residents began noticing a suspicious man who was allegedly watching children in their neighborhood from ... Read More


Munchkin Masquerade

Downtown trick-or-treat event Friday

Downtown Newnan is a great place for shopping, dining out and – Friday morning – trick-or-treating. Main Street Newnan’s M ... Read More


Westmoreland challenges conservative voters

In the closing days before the November elections, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., shared a sobering observation with his constituents. &ldqu ... Read More


Madras alumni gathering before school demolished

The little school at Madras looms large in the hearts and minds of those who attended and taught there. But soon, the school will be only a ... Read More


‘Dead’ banker sentenced to 30 years

Aubrey Lee Price, the south Georgia banker who faked his death after defrauding investors of millions, was sentenced to 30 years in prison o ... Read More

Newnan Council

City seeks grant for intersection study

Newnan City Council authorized the submittal of a grant application to study the intersection just north of downtown. This intersection is n ... Read More