D.C. Corporation Counsel John R. Risher Jr. and two other lawyers have recommended a return to imposition of the death penalty for certain crimes committed in the District of Columbia.
The recommendation of Risher, who is the city's top legal officer but does not prosecute criminal cases, is contained in a minority report of the D.C. Law Revision Commission, a special 19-member panel that is advising Congress on ways to ovehaul the city's criminal code.
Few people have been sentenced to death in the city in the past 10 years, and no one has been executed in the city's electric chair for two decades. In addition, crime in the major categories for which the death penalty would be imposed is going down in Washington, Risher said.
Still, three lawyers contended, "The only assured way to prevent the recidivism of a defendant and the most effective way to deter others is by imposition when particular facts warrant to the death pnalty. Further more, a life sentence without release is no deterrent of one already serving a life sentence without release."
Risher, who made the recommendation along with lawyers Stephen S. Boynton and Marion Edwyn Harrison, said yesterday that an increase in the number of "new terrorist type offenses" also necessitated a 'return to capital punishment here.
The crimes for which the death penalty would be imposed are first-degree murder, first degree awson, kidnapping, abduction rape or sexual assault that ended in death robbery that ended in death or serious bodily harm. Death would also be imposed after second commission of these crimes or if the acts were committed by someone already imprisoned for a felony offense.
No one under 16 years of age at the time the offence was committed could be sentenced to death, nor could someone for whom a jury had recommended clemency be sentenced to die.
Risher said most of the offenses for which the death penalty is now being proposed are currently punishment, up to and including life.
The death penalty was mandatory in Washington for first-degree murder up until about 1962, when popular opinion began to turn against capital punishment.
The law revision commission's recommendations can be acted upon either by Congress or by the City Council, which, under present law, would be allowed to amend the city's criminal code begginning next year.