The life and work of David Baldus - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

The life and work of David Baldus

David Baldus in a 1997 interview with KWWL David Baldus in a 1997 interview with KWWL

A University of Iowa law professor nationally recognized for his research on the death penalty has died.  The death of David Baldus is making national headlines this week.

An article published in the New York Times mentions his work studying race of victims and race of defendants in murder trials and what effect that had on death sentencing.  He was the center of a 1987 Supreme Court ruling that ruled racial disparities in executions did not offend the Constitution.

David Baldus added depth to KWWL's coverage of legal issues through the years.

"There is always the nagging concern that jurors have in cases like this that maybe we have the wrong man, and that would be a factor in mitigation," Baldus said in a 1997 interview during the trial of Timothy McVeigh, the man behind the Oklahoma City Bombing.

The big question back then: Did McVeigh deserve to live after the crime he committed?

"If nothing is accomplished, in terms of making the families any better off or deterring crime, it nevertheless reflects a judgment that this is very important.  Its society's statement about the importance of this matter and the importance of human life," Baldus said.

Baldus gave arguments for both sides of the death penalty.  He told us supporters say it deters crime, but opponents say the court shouldn't redeem society when a killing occurs by killing another person.

In another legal case, in 1996, an Iowa City police officer shot and killed an Iowa City man without justification.  Jeffrey Gillaspie was one of several officers investigating a burglary when he killed Eric Shaw, who sculpted in his father's business.

KWWL interviewed David Baldus to get his thoughts about the Grand Jury proceedings to determine what action to take against the officer.

"Its an important institution, even though its not frequently used, it can fill in the gap when problems arise as we see a problem arose in Johnson County," Baldus said about the use of a Grand Jury.

The officer, Jeffrey Gillaspie, never faced charges, but did resign after being told he would be fired.

David Baldus died at his Iowa City home Monday.  He had been suffering from Colon Cancer.  Baldus was 75 years old and was still working on research until just a few weeks ago.

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