Are 100 murderers being released from prison and going to your neighborhood? No, but if you don't read the news articles carefully, you might think so. One hundred death sentences were reversed Tuesday because the courts were wrong. Yes, your tax supported courts were wrong - dead wrong.
How could so many courts be so wrong? More than 100 mistakes? Well, they were and now more than 100 death sentences (search) in Arizona, Montana and Idaho were reversed on Tuesday by a federal court of appeals. The court of appeals said, in essence, it had no choice but to toss out those death sentences since the United States Supreme Court -- their "boss" - said in 2002 that juries, not judges, must make the decision on death sentences.
For those who live in the area, they need not worry that the prison doors have been flung open and that murderers are headed to the streets. When death sentences are overturned, it means one of two things: either the convicted killer's sentence is changed to life or he, or she, gets a new sentencing. In the new sentencing, he, or she, could get re-sentenced -- this time by a jury -- again to death.
When a significant ruling like this gets handed down, I always wonder if we should "scrap" our existing plans for our nightly show and do a show on this new matter. That means the staff gets "turned upside down" scrambling to do what we think is the right show. That means canceling existing guests and getting other new ones. No one on our show is unwilling to scramble to redo the show if we think it is the right show to do. But how do you decide what is "right?" It is almost worse when we have a few hours to think about it. Breaking news does not give us time to think.
Frankly, breaking news does that to us all the time and with no notice whatsoever. Breaking news just happens and we simply drop everything to bring it to you as fast as we can.
In a situation like a court ruling that occurs midday, it is not easy to trying to make that decision and it is on our show a "group discussion" -- although the group size can vary. On Tuesday we did not "shift gears" and redesign our show based on this court decision.
Of course, the death penalty is an issue that is hugely important and hotly debated in this country. If you read my new book, My Turn at the Bully Pulpit, I bet you will be stunned by my opinion. You may also be stunned at how I arrived at it. I arrived at it after much thought and after changing my mind several times (as you will see in the book).
I have had many brushes with the topic. I have represented defendants facing the death penalty, I have witnessed an execution and I have watched terrible men like Timothy McVeigh get rightfully convicted of the most unthinkable crimes. Frankly, McVeigh got the death penalty the old fashion way -- he had a fair trial and he "earned" the death penalty. I don't ask that you agree with my opinion in the book, but I would like to have a good debate on the topic. You might even change my opinion.
Watch On the Record with Greta Van Susteren weeknights at 10 p.m. ET