US lawmakers pitch death penalty rule changes

Lawmakers in Georgia are trying to make it easier to sentence convicts to death after a deadlocked jury allowed a man convicted of four murders to avoid execution. A measure filed this week would make Georgia one of six states that allow the death penalty without a unanimous jury decision. The proposal is another sign of the growing backlash to a jury's decision not to sentence Brian Nichols to death for murdering a judge, a court reporter, a sheriff's deputy and an off-duty federal agent in a 2005 shooting spree that began in a downtown Atlanta courthouse. If the measure passes, Georgia would also become the only state with the death penalty to have a system that factors in both the jury and judge's decision, said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center. The bill would allow a judge to impose a death sentence if at least ten jurors vote for capital punishment. State law now requires a unanimous jury to return a death sentence.