Breyer Troubled by Geography’s Role in Death Penalty Sentences

(CN) – A Supreme Court majority’s refusal Monday to grant certiorari to the appeal of a condemned Louisiana inmate was criticized by Justice Stephen Breyer, who says he has serious concerns about the role geography plays in the imposition of the death penalty.

Marcus Donte Reed was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder for the August 2010 shooting deaths of three brothers outside a Caddo Parish, Louisiana home.

Prosecutors said Reed killed Jerimiah, Jarquis and Jean Adams — the victims ranging in age from 13 to 20 years old — because he believed they stole his XBox 360.

Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator told reporters at the time that the brothers were ambushed as the Chevy Malibu they were riding in stopped in the driveway of the residence.

The gunman, later identified as Reed, began firing at the car with an assault weapon with a 30-round clip from a nearby stand of trees. The brothers died at the scene of multiple gunshot wounds.

Reed was later found to have also been carrying a .45 caliber handgun.

Prosecutors said Reed opened fire on the brothers a day after his girlfriend’s home was burglarized, and he believed one or all of his victims was involved.

It took less than an hour of deliberation for the jury to convict him on all counts.

The justices who voted not to grant Reed a writ of certiorari did not explain their rationale for doing so.

But the decision troubled Justice Breyer who noted in his dissent that Reed was sentenced in Caddo Parish, “a county that in recent history has apparently sentenced more people to death per capita than any other county in the United States.”

According to the non-profit Death Penalty Information Center, Caddo Parish is among the 2 percent of U.S. counties responsible for 56 percent of people currently residing on death row.

On Monday, Breyer said he finds such statistics unconscionable.

“The arbitrary role that geography plays in the imposition of the death penalty, along with the other serious problems I have previously described, has led me to conclude that the Court should consider the basic question of the death penalty’s constitutionality,” he wrote.

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