It's not easy to separate emotion from constitutional issues. Ronell Wilson killed two NYPD detectives in 2003 and was found guilty and sentence to death by a federal jury. Good.
Now, in 2010, an appeals court struck down the sentence (but not the conviction... the bastard did it).
It's easy for cops and conservatives to bitch about "liberal" courts letting cop killers go on a "technicality." But the court is right.
According to the Times, the "technicality" is that the prosecutors told the jury to consider Wilson's demand for a trial and failure to plead guilty as evidence of lack of remorse. The prosecutors had "argued to the jury that his statement of remorse should be discredited because he failed to testify."
Like it or not (myself, I'm rather fond of the Bill of Rights), we all have the constitutional right to a jury trial--Amendment 6--and the right not to testify against ourselves--Amendment 5. Period.
[Mind you, demanding your right to a jury trial is often held against you. That's why 90-some percent of convictions come from plea bargains -- but that doesn't make it right and that's another story.]
What kind of rights would these be if exercising these rights were held against you? What could be worse than a prosecutor implying, "Yes, the defendant had a right not to testify, and because he exercised that right, he should be put to death."
Call it a "technicality" if you want. I'd call it a fundamental right put in doubt by a serious and stupid error from prosecutors.