Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Death Penalty

As I've mentioned before, I'm against the death penalty. I'm writing now to explain why that is and give my general thoughts on the matter.

While there are many justifications offered for the death penalty, I think they all boil down to two basic arguments: deterrence of future crime and vengence.

There are two types of deterrence against future crime: specific and general. Specific deterence would seem to be inarguable (and almost trivial), in that it refers to the fact that when you execute someone, they can't commit any further crimes. Yet is it really inarguable? I'll get to that in a minute. (And no, zombies are not involved). General deterrence is the idea that, if potential criminals know that they could be executed for a given crime, that they'll think twice about doing it in an effort to preserve their own lives. This is very arguable. Particularly because there doesn't really seem to be any good evidence that shows the death penalty is particularlly effective at creating general deterrence. This is probably in great part because most people don't commit crimes with the expectation that they'll be caught and convicted. And probably those who do have the foresight to recognize the liklihood of being caught don't commit crimes in the first place, even where there is no death penalty.

Thus, I don't really see deterrence sufficient to justify the intentional killing of an otherwise helpless (due to incarceration) human being.

Then there's vengence. I can understand the want for this. I have children. I'd want to kill anyone who even layed the slightest hand on them. Rape or murder them, and you won't survive being in a room alone with me. But that visceral, emotional reaction doesn't justify the death penalty. Because, as I said, I'd have that reaction if you just hit one of my children, and no one wants the death penalty for assault. Vengence seems a rather primitive and blood thirsty thing to make it part of the official "justice" system.

Which brings me to the argument that shows that even specific deterrence doesn't necessarily work. The reason that doesn't work is not because executed criminals will rise from the grave and commit further crimes as zombies - the reason it doesn't work is because it presumes you've actually executed the right person each time, and if you haven't, if the real perpetrator of the crime is free while you execute an innocent person, then all that you've done is guaranteed that the guilty one will never be held accountable (and thus you've freed him or her to commit crimes again). The reason for this is the extreme reluctance of anyone to officially look into already-executed criminals to see if they were actually innocent. No one wants to admit they had a part in executing an innocent person. They'd rather accept the cognitive dissonance of insisting an innocent person is really guilty in an effort to avoid feeling guilt. So this makes it almost impossible for such a case to be reopened to go after the true guilty party.

This gets down to the argument by the pro-death penalty people, that the system is so perfect that an innocent person has never been executed. They point to the lack of evidence of exoneration for any executed person. Of course, this fails to take into account the above-mentioned reluctance for any official involved to want to admit they killed someone innocent. On top of that, all of the mechanisms involved to adjudicate such things stop completely once someone is executed. The dead need no criminal due process. Thus, it is no surprise that there has never been any official exoneration post-mortem - the gears that would show such a thing stop completely at death. Its sort of like how you always find something in the last place you look - after you find something, you stop looking!

But despite this, there is very strong indirect, statistical evidence that a great number of executions were of innocent people. That's from DNA evidence. At this point, the pro-death penalty people will say that DNA proves the system works because hey, look at all of the multitudes that have been released from death row from DNA evidence! See, all of the exonerated ones went free, proving that only the truly guilty were sentenced to die. The problem with that is that, first, not every crime involves DNA evidence, so those wrongful convictions that did not involve it won't be overturned by DNA. And second, DNA testing is a relatively new science - for two hundred years it didn't exist at all. So every single conviction for two centuries that was wrongful and could have been exonerated with DNA instead ended with an execution (barring some other unlikely event). For some reason, the pro-death penalty people I've talked to seem to think that wrongful convictions never happened before DNA, and that they only happened afterwards to the extent that DNA testing has already exonerated some. Which, of course, is so unlikely and ridiculous that it bears no rebuttal.

I've read it in at least once place that the big thing that DNA testing has done for the criminal justice system is pry away the lid and take a peek at how it effective it really is at discerning who is guilty and who is not. For a brief window of time, as convictions that happened before DNA testing could have prevented them work their way through appeals, we get to peek, at least partially, at how well our system did. Because they provide a definitive way to know when a particular case was decided right or wrong. This window will soon close, as now DNA testing can be done before trial, and so in those particular instances where it could exonerate (which is not true in every case - most cases have no DNA evidence at all) the exoneration would happen before trial. This does not mean that there won't be plenty of wrongful convictions, those just will be the ones without DNA (or mostly without, as defendants will still be stuck with mostly ineffective defense counsel).

That peek into the effectiveness of the system should give everyone pause. As I noted before, it is funny how those who have no problem with the system and seem to think that it is 100% effective at adjudicating who can be executed also don't trust the government system at all when it comes to things like delivering mail or handling a civil case against a corporation. Which just goes to show that ideology, for many, trumps reason.

I like to think I'm consistent. I think the system has a lot of problems. I worry more about criminal cases because the stakes are higher (freedom versus money) and also because so many defendants in those cases are at such a disadvantage, with poor counsel with little to no resources.

I simply don't think our system is good enough or fair enough to ever trust it with the decision of life or death. As an added bonus, it would save money not to execute, because the appeals can be so expensive, far more so than it would cost to simply leave someone in jail for life. Plus, as noted above, not killing someone would mean that the system would be more open to examining things that lead to exoneration which could in turn lead to finding the actual guilty party in those cases of innocents being convicted. If people wrongfully convicted are in prison for life, then, there is at least a small chance the guilty one will be brought to justice some day. If innocents are executed, that chance evaporates, because no one will want to admit that level of mistake.

Finally, there really is no need to kill anyone. We can lock people up for life. Most offenses are not life offenses anyway. What causes our prison budgets to explode isn't capital crimes, like murder, it is consensual crimes, like drugs, and those are just plain stupid. But that is the subject for another post.

14 comments:

The Barefoot Bum said...

But that visceral, emotional reaction doesn't justify the death penalty.

Although it's not at the top of my priority list, I'm no fan of the death penalty myself. However, I think you do a disservice to your position by minimizing and dismissing the role of vengeance in justifying the death penalty. At some level, visceral emotional feelings justify everything we do. We eat because we feel hungry.

Emotions are not a good justification for acting irrationally (i.e. an action having an effect different from that desired or expected) or hastily, but they are perfectly good reasons, indeed the only fundamental reasons for acting at all.

I think it's a more powerful and accurate way to argue against the death penalty to admit the power and validity of the motivation for revenge, and then go on to introduce additional, more important motivations that outweigh the need for vengeance.

Zhasper said...

You're leaving out my mother's biggest motivation: cost. She would prefer anyone given a "life" sentence be executed instead to save taxpayer money.

She also would prefer that some innocent people were killed than that even a single guilty person escaped being killed.

*sigh*

dudleysharp said...

A lot of your presumptions are false.

The Death Penalty in the US: A Review
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below
 
NOTE: Detailed review of any of the below topics, or others, is available upon request
 
In this brief format, the reality of the death penalty in the United States, is presented, with the hope that the media, public policy makers and others will make an effort to present a balanced view on this sanction.
 

Innocence Issues
 
Death Penalty opponents have proclaimed that 128 inmates have been "released from death row with evidence of their innocence", in the US, since the modern death penalty era began, post Furman v Georgia (1972).
 
That number is a fraud.
 
Those opponents have intentionally included both the factually innocent (the "I truly had nothing to do with the murder" cases) and the legally innocent (the "I got off because of legal errors" cases), thereby fraudulently raising the "innocent" numbers. This is easily confirmed by fact checking.
 
Death penalty opponents claim that 24 such innocence cases are in Florida. The Florida Commission on Capital Cases found that 4 of those 24 MIGHT be innocent -- an 83% error rate in for the claims of death penalty opponents. Other studies show their error rate to be about 70%.
 
Therefore, 20-25 of the alleged 127 innocents MIGHT be actually innocent -- a 0.3% actual guilt error rate for the over 8000 sentenced to death since 1973.  The actual innocents were all freed,
 
It is often claimed that 23 innocents have been executed in the US since 1900.  Nonsense.  Even the authors of that "23 innocents executed" study proclaimed "We agree with our critics, we never proved those (23) executed to be innocent; we never claimed that we had."  While no one would claim that an innocent has never been executed, there is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.
 
No one disputes that innocents are found guilty, within all countries.  However, when scrutinizing death penalty opponents claims, we find that when reviewing the accuracy of verdicts and the post conviction thoroughness of discovering those actually innocent incarcerated, that the US death penalty process may be one of the most accurate criminal justice sanctions in the world. 
 
Under real world scenarios, not executing murderers will always put many more innocents at risk, than will ever be put at risk of execution.
 

Deterrence Issues
 
16 recent US studies, inclusive of their defenses,  find a deterrent effect of the death penalty.
 
All the studies which have not found a deterrent effect of the death penalty have refused to say that it does not deter some.  The studies finding for deterrence state such.  Confusion arises when people think that a simple comparison of murder rates and executions, or the lack thereof, can tell the tale of deterrence.  It cannot. 
 
Both high and low murder rates are found within death penalty and non death penalty jurisdictions, be it Singapore, South Africa, Sweden or Japan, or the US states of Michigan and Delaware.  Many factors are involved in such evaluations.  Reason and common sense tell us that it would be remarkable to find that the most severe criminal sanction -- execution -- deterred none.  No one is foolish enough to suggest that the potential for negative consequences does not deter the behavior of some.  Therefore, regardless of jurisdiction, having the death penalty will always be an added deterrent to murders, over and above any lesser punishments.
 

Racial issues
 
White murderers are twice as likely to be executed in the US as are black murderers and are executed, on average, 12 months more quickly than are black death row inmates.
 
It is often stated that it is the race of the victim which decides who is prosecuted in death penalty cases.  Although blacks and whites make up about an equal number of murder victims, capital cases are 6 times more likely to involve white victim murders than black victim murders.  This, so the logic goes, is proof that the US only cares about white victims.
 
Hardly.  Only capital murders, not all murders, are subject to a capital indictment.  Generally, a capital murder is limited to murders plus secondary aggravating factors, such as murders involving burglary, carjacking, rape, and additional murders, such as police murders, serial and multiple murders.  White victims are, overwhelmingly, the victims under those circumstances, in ratios nearly identical to the cases found on death row.
 
Any other racial combinations of defendants and/or their victims in death penalty cases, is a reflection of the crimes committed and not any racial bias within the system, as confirmed by studies from the Rand Corporation (1991), Smith College (1994), U of Maryland (2002), New Jersey Supreme Court (2003) and by a view of criminal justice statistics, within a framework of the secondary aggravating factors necessary for capital indictments.
 

Class issues
 
No one disputes that wealthier defendants can hire better lawyers and, therefore, should have a legal advantage over their poorer counterparts.  The US has executed about 0.15% of all murderers since new death penalty statutes were enacted in 1973.  Is there evidence that wealthier capital murderers are less likely to be executed than their poorer ilk, based upon the proportion of capital murders committed by different those different economic groups? Not to my knowledge.
 

Arbitrary and capricious
 
About 10% of all murders within the US might qualify for a death penalty eligible trial.  That would be about 64,000 murders since 1973.  We have sentenced 8000 murderers to death since then, or 13% of those eligible.  I doubt that there is any other crime which receives a higher percentage of maximum sentences, when mandatory sentences are not available.  Based upon that, as well as pre trial, trial, appellate and clemency/commutation realities, the US death penalty is likely the least arbitrary and capricious criminal sanctions in the  US.
 

Christianity and the death penalty
 
The two most authoritative New Testament scholars, Saints Augustine and Aquinas, provide substantial biblical and theological support for the death penalty. Even the most well known anti death penalty personality in the US, Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, states that "It is abundantly clear that the Bible depicts murder as a capital crime for which death is considered the appropriate punishment, and one is hard pressed to find a biblical 'proof text' in either the Hebrew Testament or the New Testament which unequivocally refutes this.  Even Jesus' admonition 'Let him without sin cast the first stone,' when He was asked the appropriate punishment for an adulteress (John 8:7) -- the Mosaic Law prescribed death -- should be read in its proper context.  This passage is an 'entrapment' story, which sought to show Jesus' wisdom in besting His adversaries.  It is not an ethical pronouncement about capital punishment."  A thorough review of Pope John Paul II's position, reflects a reasoning that should be recommending more executions.
 

Cost Issues
 
All studies finding the death penalty to be more expensive than life without parole exclude important factors, such as (1) geriatric care costs, recently found to be $69,0000/yr/inmate, (2) the death penalty cost benefit of providing for plea bargains to a maximum life sentence, a huge cost savings to the state, (3) the death penalty cost benefit of both enhanced deterrence and enhanced incapacitation, at $5 million per innocent life spared, and, furthermore, (4) many of the alleged cost comparison studies are highly deceptive.
 

Polling data
 
76% of Americans find that we should impose the death penalty more or that we impose it about right (Gallup, May 2006 - 51% that we should impose it more, 25% that we impose it about right)
 
71%  find capital punishment morally acceptable - that was the highest percentage answer for all questions (Gallup, April 2006, moral values poll). In May, 2007, the percentage dropped to 66%, still the highest percentage answer, with 27% opposed. (Gallup, 5/29/07)
 
81% of the American people supported the execution of Timothy McVeigh, with only 16% opposed. "(T)his view appears to be the consensus of all major groups in society, including men, women, whites, nonwhites, "liberals" and "conservatives."  (Gallup 5/2/01).
 
81% of Connecticut citizens supported the execution of serial rapist/murderer Michael Ross (Jan 2005).
 
While 81% gave specific case support for Timothy McVeigh's execution, Gallup also showed a 65% support AT THE SAME TIME when asked a general "do you support capital punishment for murderers?" question. (Gallup, 6/10/01).
 
22% of those supporting McVeigh's execution are, generally, against the death penalty (Gallup 5/02/01). That means that about half of those who say they oppose the death penalty, with the general question,  actually support the death penalty under specific circumstances, just as it is imposed, judicially.
 
Further supporting the higher rates for specific cases, is this, from the French daily Le Monde December 2006 (1): Percentage of respondents in favor of executing Saddam Hussein:USA: 82%; Great Britain: 69%; France: 58%; Germany: 53%; Spain: 51%; Italy: 46%
 
Death penalty support is much deeper and much wider than we are often led to believe, with 50% of those who say they, generally, oppose the death penalty actually supporting it under specific circumstances, resulting in 80% death penalty support in the US, as recently as December 2006.
 
--------------------------------
 
Whatever your feelings are toward the death penalty, a fair accounting of how it is applied should be demanded.
 
copyright 1998-2008 Dudley Sharp
 
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail  sharpjfa@aol.com,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
 
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
 
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
 
Pro death penalty sites 

homicidesurvivors(dot)com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx

www(dot)dpinfo.com
www(dot)cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
www(dot)clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
www(dot)coastda.com/archives.html
www(dot)lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
www(dot)prodeathpenalty.com
www(dot)yesdeathpenalty.com/deathpenalty_co
yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2 (Sweden)
www(dot)wesleylowe.com/cp.html

Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.

dudleysharp said...

The Death Penalty: Neither Hatred nor Revenge
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below

Death penalty opponents say that the death penalty has a foundation in hatred and revenge. Such is a false claim.

A death sentence requires pre existing statutes, trial and appeals, considerations of guilt and due process, to name but a few. Revenge requires none of these and, in fact, does not even require guilt or a crime.

The criminal justice system goes out of its way to take hatred and revenge out of the process. That is why we have a system of pre existing laws and legal procedures that offer extreme protections to defendants and those convicted and which limit punishments and prosecutions to specific crimes.

It is also why those directly affected by the murder are not allowed to be fact finders in the case.

The reality is that the pre trial, trial. appellate and executive clemency/commutation processes offer much much greater time, money and human resources to capital cases than they do to any other cases, meaning that the facts tell us that defendants and convicted murderers, subject to the death penalty, receive much greater care and concern than those not facing the death penalty - the opposite of a sytem marked with vengeance.

Calling executions a product of hatred and revenge is simply a way in which some death penalty opponents attempt to establish a sense of moral superiority. It can also be a transparent insult which results in additional hurt to those victim survivors who have already suffered so much and who believe that execution is the appropriate punishment for those who murdered their loved one(s).

Far from moral superiority, those who call capital punishment an expression of hatred and revenge are often exhibiting their contempt for those who believe differently than they do.

The pro death penalty position is based upon those who find that punishment just and appropriate under specific circumstances.

Those opposed to execution cannot prove a foundation of hatred and revenge for the death penalty any more than they can for any other punishment sought within a system such as that observed within the US - unless such opponents find all punishments a product of hatred and revenge - an unreasonable, unfounded position

Far from hatred and revenge, the death penalty represents our greatest condemnation for a crime of unequaled horror and consequence. Lesser punishments may suffice under some circumstances. A death sentence for certain heinous crimes is given in those special circumstances when a jury finds such is more just than a lesser sentence.

Less justice is not what we need.

A thorough review of the criminal justice system will often beg this question: Why have we chosen to be so generous to murderers and so contemptuous of the human rights and suffering of the victims and future victims?

The punishment of death is, in no way, a balancing between harm and punishment, because the innocent murder victim did not deserve or earn their fate, whereas the murderer has earned their own, deserved punishment by the free will action of violating societies laws and an individuals life and, thereby, voluntarily subjecting themselves to that jurisdictions judgment.

copyright 2001-2008   Dudley Sharp

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail  sharpjfa@aol.com,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
 
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
 
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
 
Pro death penalty sites 

homicidesurvivors(dot)com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx

www(dot)dpinfo.com
www(dot)cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
www(dot)clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
www(dot)coastda.com/archives.html
www(dot)lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
www(dot)prodeathpenalty.com
www(dot)yesdeathpenalty.com/deathpenalty_co
yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2 (Sweden)
www(dot)wesleylowe.com/cp.html

Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.

dudleysharp said...

The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below

Often, the death penalty dialogue gravitates to the subject of innocents at risk of execution. Seldom is a more common problem reviewed. That is, how innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.
 
Living murderers, in prison, after release or escape or after our failures to incarcerate them, are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers.
 
This is a truism.
 
No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.

Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed.
 
That is. logically, conclusive.
 
16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses,  find for death penalty deterrence.
 
A surprise? No.

Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
 
Some believe that all studies with contrary findings negate those 16 studies. They don’t. Studies which don’t find for deterrence don’t say no one is deterred, but that they couldn’t measure those deterred.
 
What prospect of a negative outcome doesn’t deter some? There isn’t one . . . although committed anti death penalty folk may say the death penalty is the only one.
 
However, the premier anti death penalty scholar accepts it as a given that the death penalty is a deterrent, but does not believe it to be a greater deterrent than a life sentence. Yet, the evidence is  compelling and un refuted  that death is feared more than life.

“This evidence greatly unsettles moral objections to the death penalty, because it suggests that a refusal to impose that penalty condemns numerous innocent people to death.” (1)
 
” . . . a serious commitment to the sanctity of human life may well compel, rather than forbid, (capital) punishment.” (1)

“Recent evidence suggests that capital punishment may have a significant deterrent effect, preventing as many as eighteen or more murders for each execution.” (1)
 
Some death penalty opponents argue against death penalty deterrence, stating that it’s a harsher penalty to be locked up without any possibility of getting out.
 
Reality paints a very different picture.
 
What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
 
What percentage of convicted capital murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
 
What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment.
 
This is not, even remotely, in dispute.
 
Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
 
Furthermore, history tells us that “lifers” have many ways to get out: Pardon, commutation, escape, clerical error, change in the law, etc.

In choosing to end the death penalty, or in choosing not implement it, some have chosen to spare murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives.
 
——–
 
Furthermore, possibly we have sentenced 20-25 actually innocent people to death since 1973, or 0.3% of those so sentenced. Those have all been released upon post conviction review. The anti death penalty claims, that the numbers are significantly higher, are a fraud, easily discoverable by fact checking.

6 inmates have been released from death row because of DNA evidence.  An additional 9 were released from prison, because of DNA exclusion, who had previously been sentenced to death.

The innocents deception of death penalty opponents has been getting exposure for many years. Even the behemoth of anti death penalty newspapers — The New York Times — has recognized that deception.

“To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row . . . “. ‘ (2) This when death penalty opponents were claiming the release of 119 “innocents” from death row. Death penalty opponents never required actual innocence in order for cases to be added to their “exonerated” or “innocents” list. They simply invented their own definitions for exonerated and innocent and deceptively shoe horned large numbers of inmates into those definitions - something easily discovered with fact checking.

There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.

If we accept that the best predictor of future performance is past performance, we can reasonable conclude that the DNA cases will be excluded prior to trial, and that for the next 8000 death sentences, that we will experience a 99.8% accuracy rate in actual guilt convictions. This improved accuracy rate does not include the many additional safeguards that have been added to the system, over and above DNA testing.

Of all the government programs in the world, that put innocents at risk, is there one with a safer record and with greater protections than the US death penalty?
 
Unlikely.
 
———————–
Full report -  All Innocence Issues: The Death Penalty, upon request.

Full report - The Death Penalty as a Deterrent, upon request
 
(1) From the Executive Summary of
Is Capital Punishment Morally Required? The Relevance of Life-Life Tradeoffs, March 2005
Prof. Cass R. Sunstein,   Cass_Sunstein(AT)law.uchicago.edu
 Prof. Adrian Vermeule ,   avermeule(AT)law.harvard.edu
Full report           http://aei-brookings.org/admin/authorpdfs/page.php?id=1131
 
(2) “The Death of Innocents’: A Reasonable Doubt”,
New York Times Book Review, p 29, 1/23/05, Adam Liptak,
national legal correspondent for The NY Times
—————————–

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail  sharpjfa@aol.com,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
 
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O’Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
 
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
 
Pro death penalty sites 

homicidesurvivors(dot)com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx

www(dot)dpinfo.com
www(dot)cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
www(dot)clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
www(dot)coastda.com/archives.html
www(dot)lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
www(dot)prodeathpenalty.com
www(dot)yesdeathpenalty.com/deathpenalty_co
yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2 (Sweden)
www(dot)wesleylowe.com/cp.html

Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.

DBB said...

Dudley Sharp - how about this - we just plain don't need a death penalty. Life in prison suffices just fine, and then we'll know for sure that we've never executed an innocent person.

And escapes from prison are rare - particularly from maximum security prisons, so it seems unlikely a lifer is going to get out to hurt anyone else.

Michigan doesn't have a death penalty. We seem to be doing just fine.

DBB said...

BB: Vengence is such a volatile thing. It is something that goes beyond just punishment. It is one of those emotions that I think tends to have far more negatives than positives. Like jealousy, I don't think anything good can come from it. I think back on some old proverb, probably from a movie, that went along the lines of this:

If you seek vengence, the first thing you should do is dig two graves. One for the subject of your vengence, and one for yourself. Vengence is never really satisfied. It is a form of bloodlust.

I put possible innocence ahead of bloodlust.

dudleysharp said...

dbb writes: how about this - we just plain don't need a death penalty. Life in prison suffices just fine, and then we'll know for sure that we've never executed an innocent person.

Evidently you didn't read my posts.

Innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.

LWOP suffices in some cases. I am saying give the jury the option to select the death penaltry when they find it more apptropriate than LWOP.

dbb: escapes from prison are rare - particularly from maximum security prisons, so it seems unlikely a lifer is going to get out to hurt anyone else.

Yes, but they do happen and escapes do harm and murder again. Executed murderers do not escape and harm/murder again.

Michigan is not doing fine, at all.

review, below.

dudleysharp said...

Death Penalty and Deterrence: Let's be clear
by Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, 0104
 
In their story, "States With No Death Penalty Share Lower Homicide Rates", The New York Times did their best to illustrate that the death penalty was not a deterrent, by showing that the average murder rate in death penalty states was higher than the average rate in non death penalty states and, it is. (1)
 
What the Times failed to observe is that their own study confirmed that you can't simply compare those averages to make that determination regarding deterrence.
 
As one observer stated: "The Times story does nothing more than repeat the dumbest of all dumb mistakes — taking the murder rate in a traditionally high-homicide state with capital punishment (like Texas) and comparing it to a traditionally low-homicide state with no death penalty (like North Dakota) and concluding that the death penalty doesn't work at all. Even this comparison doesn't work so well. The Times own graph shows Texas, where murder rates were 40 percent above Michigan's in 1991, has now fallen below Michigan . . .". (2)
 
Within the Times article, Michigan Governor John Engler states, "I think Michigan made a wise decision 150 years ago," referring to the state's abolition of the death penalty in 1846.   "We're pretty proud of the fact that we don't have the death penalty."(3)
 
Even though easily observed on the Times' own graphics, they failed to mention the obvious. Michigan's murder rate is near or above that of 31 of the US's 38 death penalty states. And then, it should be recognized that Washington, DC (not found within the Times study) and Detroit, Michigan, two non death penalty jurisdictions, have been perennial leaders in murder and violent crime rates for the past 30 years. Delaware, a jurisdiction similar in size to them, leads the nation in executions per murder, but has significantly lower rates of murders and violent crime than do either DC or Detroit, during that same period.
 
Obviously, the Times study and any other simple comparison of jurisdictions with and without the death penalty, means little, with regard to deterrence.
 
Also revealed within the Times study, but not pointed out by them,: "One-third of the nation's executions take place in Texas—and the steepest decline in homicides has occurred in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas, which together account for nearly half the nation's executions." (4)
 
And, the Times also failed to mention that the major US jurisdiction with the most executions is Harris County (Houston, Texas), which has seen a 73% decrease in murder rates since resuming executions in 1982 -- possibly the largest reduction for a major metropolitan area since that time.
 
Also omitted from the Times review, although they had the data, is that during a virtual cessation of executions, from 1966-1980, that murders more than doubled in the US. Any other rise and fall in murders, after that time, has been only a fraction of that change, indicating a strong and direct correlation between the lack of executions and the dramatic increase in murders, if that is specifically what you are looking for.
 
If deterrence was measured by direct correlation's between execution, or the lack thereof, and murder rates, as implied by the Times article, and as wrongly assumed by those blindly accepting that model, then there would be no debate, only more confusion. Which may have been the Times goal.
 
Let's take a look at the science.
 
Some non death penalty jurisdictions, such as South Africa and Mexico lead the world in murder and violent crime rates. But then some non death penalty jurisdictions, such as Sweden, have quite low rates. Then there are such death penalty jurisdictions as Japan and Singapore which have low rates of such crime. But then other death penalty jurisdictions, such as Rwanda and Louisiana, that have high rates.
 
To which an astute observer will respond: But socially, culturally, geographically, legally, historically and many other ways, all of those jurisdictions are very different. Exactly, a simple comparison of only execution rates and murder rates cannot tell the tale of deterrence. And within the US, between states, there exist many variables which will effect the rates of homicides.
 
And, as so well illustrated by the Times graphics, a non death penalty state, such as Michigan has high murder rates and another non death penalty state, such as North Dakota, has low murder rates and then there are death penalty states, such as Louisiana, with high murder rates and death penalty states, such South Dakota, with low rates. Apparently, unbeknownst to the Times, but quite obvious to any neutral observer, there are other factors at play here, not just the presence or absence of the death penalty. Most thinking folks already knew that.
 
As Economics Professor Ehrlich stated in the Times piece and, as accepted by all knowledgeable parties, there are many factors involved in such evaluations. That is why there is a wide variation of crime rates both within and between some death penalty and non death penalty jurisdictions, and small variations within and between others.  Any direct comparison of only execution rates and only murder rates, to determine deterrence, would reflect either ignorance or deception.
 
Ehrlich called the Times study "a throwback to the vintage 1960s statistical analyses done by criminologists who compared murder rates in neighboring states where capital punishment was either legal or illegal." "The statistics involved in such comparisons have long been recognized as devoid of scientific merit." He called the Times story a "one sided affair" devoid of merit. Most interesting is that Ehrlich was interviewed by the Time's writer, Fessenden, who asked Ehrlich to comment on the results before the story was published. Somehow Ehrlich's overwhelming criticisms were left out of the article.
 
Ehrlich also referred Fessenden to some professors who produced the recently released Emory study. Emory Economics department head, Prof. Deshbakhsh "says he was contacted by Fessenden, and he indicated to the Times reporter that the study suggested a very strong deterrent effect of capital punishment." Somehow,
Fessenden's left that out of the Times story, as well. (5).
 
There is a constant within all jurisdictions -- negative consequences will always have an effect on behavior.

1)  "States With No Death Penalty Share Lower Homicide Rates",  The New
York Times 9/22/00 located at     
www (dot) nytimes.com/2000/09/22/national/22STUD.html  and www (dot) nytimes.com/2000/09/22/national/22DEAT.html
2) “Don't Know Much About Calculus: The (New York) Times flunks high-school
math in death-penalty piece", William Tucker, National Review, 9/22/00, located
at   www (dot) nationalreview.com/comment/comment092200c.shtml
3) ibid, see footnote 11
4) "The Death Penalty Saves Lives", AIM Report, August 2000, located atwww (dot) aim.org/publications/aim_report/2000/08a.html
15) "NEW YORK TIMES UNDER FIRE AGAIN", Accuracy in Media,  10/16/00, go to www (dot) aim.org/

copyright 2000-2008 Dudley Sharp
 
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail  sharpjfa@aol.com,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
 
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
 
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
 
Pro death penalty sites 

homicidesurvivors(dot)com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx

www(dot)dpinfo.com
www(dot)cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
www(dot)clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
www(dot)coastda.com/archives.html
www(dot)lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
www(dot)prodeathpenalty.com
www(dot)yesdeathpenalty.com/deathpenalty_co
yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2 (Sweden)
www(dot)wesleylowe.com/cp.html

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DBB said...

Dudley - All of those nice studies and articles don't mean jack when YOU are the one who is innocent and about to face execution.

I know the criminal justice system. It is stacked heavily against poor defendants and most defendants are very poor. I have also dealt with plenty of murder cases. Most were done by people who were young, acting stupid, and who probably weren't thinking beyond the next five seconds of their life. Those that weren't so young or stupid instead just thought they'd get away with it - or were so desperate that they felt they had no choice but to kill to avoid having their lives "ruined" if something that they had done was revealed by the victim.

I'm not willing to execute a single innocent person. And if we have the death penalty, particularly given our broken criminal justice system, we'll be executing plenty of them. And the simple fact is, we don't need to.

The extremely rare chance of a prison break doesn't change that. And as I pointed out (and as you failed to address with your boilerplate spam comments) is that when you execute the wrong person, that leaves the right person free to kill again and, even worse than a prison break, no one will even be looking for them, so they'll have plenty of time to do so. If you just wrongfully put someone in prison for life, that leaves open the possibility that the authorities can be convinced of that person's innocence, thereby reopening the case and perhaps finding and stopping the real killer. If you execute that innocent person: case closed, and no one in any official capacity will want to touch that case with a ten foot pole because no one wants to admit they have killed an innocent person.

I'd say that such a thing is probably much more likely than prison breaks - it isn't exactly easy to break out of a maximum security prison. But it sure is easy to convict the wrong person in our criminal justice system.

DBB said...

With regard to emotions as motivation - I don't think there's anything wrong with that in a general sense (as in hunger==eat) but I think certain emotions are simply too volatile to ever use as a basis for official public policy. Emotions like jealousy, thirst for vengence, and hatred are those that I'd never find a valid basis for policy - I think it just leads to bad things. I'd rather use the emotional thirst for fairness or justice (as opposed to vengence) as the basis for our justice system. And I do see a distinction between seeking justice and seeking vengence. Justice would have you punish the person responsible for a wrong. Vengence may not be satisified without something more - for instance, if a man kills your daughter, vengence might call for you to kill his daughter in retaliation. That would satisfy vengence, but not justice.

dudleysharp said...

dbb writes:

"I know the criminal justice system. It is stacked heavily against poor defendants and most defendants are very poor."

Let's look at reality.

Death Penalty: Incredible due process protections for the defendant
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info, below
 
TRIAL
 
A death sentence requires that the prosecution must prevail in 60 out of 60 issues, or 100%.
 
To avoid death, the defendant/defense counsel must prevail in only 1 out of 60 issues, or 1.67%.
 
Huge advantage for the defendant/defense and an incredible mountain to climb for the prosecution.
 
See DEATH PENALTY PROCEDURES, below.

 
APPEALS
 
If convicted and sentenced to death, the inmate may then begin an appeals process that could extend through 23 years, 60+ appeals and 200+ individual judicial and executive reviews of the inmate's claims, which can number in the dozens or hundreds -
 
The inmate needs to prevail on only one issue to overturn the death sentence or verdict.
 
The state needs to prevail on all issues to enforce the death sentence.
 
Huge advantage for the inmate and an incredible burden on the state.
 
The average time on death row for those executed is about 10 years.
 
DEATH PENALTY PROCEDURES
 
To punish with death, each one of the 12 jurors must agree with the prosecution in each of five specific areas ( 12, 14, (a)14, (b)15, (c)16, and (d)17 (with 18 & 19),  as below.

There are at least 28 procedures necessary in reaching a death sentence.  They are:  (1) The crime must be one listed as a capital crime in the penal code; (2) a suspect must be identified and arrested; (3) Beginning with the Bill of Rights, the Miranda warnings and the exclusionary rules, U.S. criminal defendants and those convicted have, by far, the most extensive protections ever devised and implemented; (4) in Harris County (Houston), Texas a panel of district attorneys determines if the case merits the death penalty as prescribed by the Penal Code (See 12-19); (5) a grand jury must indict the suspect for capital murder; (6) the suspect is presumed innocent; (7) the prosecution must prove to the judge that the evidence, upon which the prosecution will rely, is admissible; (8) the defendant is assigned two attorneys. County funds are provided to defense counsel for investigation and trial; (9) it takes 3-12 weeks to select a jury; (10) trial is conducted; (11) the burden of proof is on the state;  (12) all 12 jury members must find for guilt, beyond a reasonable doubt.  In most cases, the jury knows nothing of the defendant's previous criminal acts, at this stage. If found guilty, then, the punishment phase of the trial begins; (13) the prosecution presents additional damning evidence against the murderer, i.e., other crimes, victims, victims’ or survivors’ testimony, police reports, etc; (14) In order to find for death, the issues to be resolved by the jury are {a}(14) did the defendant not only act willfully in causing the death, but act deliberately, as well, {b}(15) does the evidence show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there is a likelihood that the defendant will be dangerous in the future, {c}(16) if there was provocation on the part of the victim, were the defendant's actions unreasonable in response to the provocations and {d}(17) is there something about the defendant that diminishes moral responsibility or in some way mitigates against the imposition of death for the defendant in this case, whereby, (18) the defense presents all mitigating circumstance, which may lesson the probability of the jury imposing death , i.e., family problems, substance abuse, age, no prior criminal record, mental disability, parental abuse, poverty, etc. Witnesses, such as family, friends, co-workers, etc.,  are presented to speak and offer the positive qualities of the defendant; (19) the jury must take into consideration those mitigating circumstances (Penry decision) and, if only 1 juror believes that the perpetrator deserves leniency because of any mitigating circumstances, then the jury cannot impose the death penalty; and (20) when the death sentence is imposed, the perpetrator receives an automatic appeal. (21& 22) the death row inmate is provided an attorney, or attorneys, to handle the direct appeal, at county expense, through both the state and federal courts; (23 & 24) the state pays attorneys for the inmate's habeas corpus appeals, at both the state and federal level; (25 & 26) death row inmates may be granted a hearing, in both state and federal court, to present post conviction claims of innocence.  The burden of proof for these claims of innocence mirrors that used by the Federal courts; and (27 & 28) Convictions and sentences are subject to pardon or sentence reduction through the executive branch of government, at both the state level (Governor) and federal level (President).
 
These 28 procedures represent the broad categories of defendant and inmate protections. Within these 28 procedures, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of additional procedures and protections.
 
In some jurisdictions, the defense must prove mitigating circumstances by a preponderance of the evidence and the prosecution must prove aggravating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a huge advantage for the defendant and a major disadvantage for the prosecution.

NOTE: PROCEDURES MAY BE SOMEWHAT DIFFERENT IN YOUR STATE

dudleysharp said...

I am sorry you weren't willing to read my posts prior to responding.

I read yours. It is a way to have informed and respectful conversation.

To repeat.

Innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.

Innocents are more at risk when given a life sentence.

The evidence is in my posts.

dbb writes:

" If you execute that innocent person: case closed, and no one in any official capacity will want to touch that case with a ten foot pole because no one wants to admit they have killed an innocent person.

I'd say that such a thing is probably much more likely than prison breaks - it isn't exactly easy to break out of a maximum security prison. But it sure is easy to convict the wrong person in our criminal justice system."

Actually, there is much more proof of criminals escaping prison and harming and murdering, again, than there is of innocents executed (none proven, at least since 1900).

Furthermore, many alleged innocents executed have been pursued for many years. It is a constant norm for anti death penalty folks. Remember Julius and Ethel Rosenberg - constant artciles, books and a movie about their aleged innocnce.

Roger Keith Coleman was a constant subject of an "innocent" executed for nearly a decade.

It goes on and on. A ton of resources, money and time, are used to try and prove an innocent executed or, as the evidence shows, a lot of wild speculation and deceptions are used to try and show an innocent executed.

DBB said...

You haven't cited any statistics of prison breaks. And you haven't dealt with the problem that no one wants to admit they executed an innocent person. Paricularly those in favor of the death penalty as you are. I know the court system first-hand. It is a conviction factory. Not to say that most aren't guilty, just that they really don't get competent counsel or as great of due process as it would appear on paper.

I read what you wrote. I just wasn't convinced by it.

I know the system. I know its imperfections. I know the politics behind a lot of it as well. Politicians err on the side of convicting the innocent lest they be seen as "soft" on crime. (A really meaningless thing).

You simply will never convince me that there aren't any innocents executed. Such a thing is incredibly unlikely. It is interesting that the recent spat of DNA exonerations still hasn't changed your mind. You do realize that 50 years ago, all of those people proved innocent by DNA testing would have simply been executed, and that people like you would have pointed to the evidence against them as proof that they were really guilty.