The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 25, 2012

Sims' long-winded sentencing hearing

Daily Item

---- — Accused killer Roderick Sims was not pleased that all of the people summoned as potential jurors for his trial in Lewisburg were white.

Sims is a black man accused of shooting a white woman who had also been the mother of his children.

Studies suggest cause for concerned.

A Duke University analysis released last year found that black defendants in trials without any blacks included in the jury pool were convicted 81 percent of the time, compared to the 66 percent conviction rate for white defendants. The study found that when a black person was included in the jury pool, conviction rates for black and white defendants were almost identical.

The authors of the study note that their findings show that the "luck of the draw" translates into different outcomes at the end of trials. Exactly how and why and what ought to be done about it are all unclear.

The odd thing about the Sims murder trial in Lewisburg is how much less is at stake.

There is little mystery about the killing of Charity Sprickler. Sims has repeatedly admitted that he shot her, fatally. Sims has maintained, at different times, that either he shot her in a fit of rage at seeing her with another man or he shot her accidentally.

Unresolved questions revolve around whether Sims killed Spickler "execution-style" or as the result of an accidental discharge of his pistol as he leaped to the her rescue where she crouched in terror on the floor after he burst into the middle of her assignation with another man.

The distinction matters when it comes to determining what sort of penalty Sims gets.

Jurors who conclude it was an "execution-style" slaying could hand down a life sentence.

Jurors who believe Sims did not intend to kill Spickler could find that a maximum 20-year prison term sufficient.

The entire exercise boils down to what Roderick Sims plans for his life 20-ish years from now, after age 70. Good and possibly great things have come from less promising circumstances, we're sure.

For now, this is more like a long-winded sentencing hearing than a trial. It pivots as much on where objects were and how they behaved in the space-time continuum than motive, means and opportunity -- physics rather than psychology.

The verdict, therefore, can be irrefutably race neutral and most certainly will be. Keep it moving.