Death Panels From Bad Legislation

[Marcy is tending bar for Glenn Greenwald today over at Salon and has a wonderful piece on John Brennan and resultant bad policy in the Obama Administration. Please give her a visit – bmaz]

Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom (England), and even Venezuela. What do all these developed first order modern countries have in common?

They abolished the death penalty. Conspicuously absent of course is the United States. We are the only country in the Americas, whether North or South, that utilizes the death penalty in anything other than declared war exceptional circumstances. The conspicuousness of the US on the world death penalty map is chilling in terms of who we are aligned with in our beliefs; and it isn’t what might be referred to as the enlightened group of nations.

What is the purpose of the death penalty in a modern society at this point? Sure isn’t deterrence. In an article in the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Dr. Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia University writes,

There is no reliable, scientifically sound evidence that [shows that executions] can exert a deterrent effect…. These flaws and omissions in a body of scientific evidence render it unreliable as a basis for law or policy that generate life-and-death decisions. To accept it uncritically invites errors that have the most severe human costs.

In accord are John Donnohue and Justin Wolfers in an article entitled "The Death Penalty: No Evidence for Deterrence", where the authors conclude claims that the death penalty saves lives and acts as a deterrent "are simply not credible." Are there studies to the contrary? Yes, and they are debunked in the above studies and evaluations, as well as in any number of others.

It is not for purposes of financial efficiency either; the death penalty is hideously expensive for the states and nation. When I first began my legal career, the data consistently showed that litigating and executing death penalty cases, as opposed to non-capital punishment treatment (including life imprisonment), was severely more expensive. That is still the case. From the CSM:

This year, state budgetary crises have given death penalty opponents their most successful argument yet – money.

Administering the death penalty is breathtakingly expensive. Contrary to popular opinion, it costs substantially more to execute people than to send them to prison for the rest of their lives.

In California, which houses the nation’s largest death row, it costs about $137 million annually to maintain the state’s death penalty system. The state has conducted only 11 executions since reinstating the death penalty in 1978, bringing the average cost per execution to $250 million. That’s right – a quarter of a billion dollars per execution.

California’s estimated cost of administering a system without capital punishment (imposing instead a maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole) is $11 million annually, which means the state could save $126 million per year if it rescinded a penalty that it almost never uses. That’s big money – money that could be allocated to healthcare and to education, money that could put more police officers on the streets and take more killers off them.

Two years ago, New Jersey calculated that the death penalty had cost over $250 million since its reinstatement in 1983 – and for all the money invested, the state had not a single execution to show for it. Little wonder New Jersey decided to cut its losses and close death row.

The CSM article is a good, short and informative read.

As anyone who is a student of the American socio-political scene (and if you read here you almost certainly are) can attest, the death penalty is like a holy grail third rail for the conservative right wing. Even the right to lifers are death penalty aficionados. The Democrats are not a whole lot better.

Why is the death penalty still prevalent in the United States? Primitive bloodlust is about the only rational answer.

So, who will rid us of this meddlesome death penalty? We have certainly established it will not be the politicos inhabiting the Congress and Executive Branch. That leaves, as it always seems to these days, the Federal Judiciary, and the wave is building. From a great article by John Schwartz in today’s New York Times:

In dozens of capital cases in recent years, appeals court judges, some of whom have ruled in favor of the death penalty many times, have complained that Congress and the Supreme Court have raised daunting barriers for death row prisoners to appeal their convictions, and in many cases the judges have taken on their colleagues.

“There is an increasing frustration among federal judges throughout the system,” said Eric M. Freedman, a critic of the death penalty who teaches on the subject at Hofstra Law School.

The law that generates much of the judges’ ire is the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Since its passage, the act has been cited in a half-dozen to two dozen dissents a year, often in language forceful enough to rival Judge Fletcher’s. The law, championed by legislators who believed prisoners were abusing the federal appeals process, restricts federal court review of state court decisions in death penalty cases and puts strong limits on the ability of condemned prisoners to file habeas corpus petitions to get their cases reconsidered.

In April, Judge Rosemary Barkett of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, complained of the law’s “thicket of procedural brambles.” Dissenting from a decision by her colleagues, Judge Barkett noted that seven of the nine witnesses in the murder trial of Troy Davis, a death row inmate in Georgia, had recanted their testimony. To execute Mr. Davis without fully considering that evidence would be “unconscionable and unconstitutional,” wrote Judge Barkett, who has voted in more than 200 other cases to uphold the death penalty.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit, a critic of capital punishment, took on the constitutionality of the 1996 death penalty act itself in a dissent in the case of Andrew C. Crater, who had been convicted of taking part in a robbery and shooting spree that killed a Sacramento musician, James Pantages. Judge Reinhardt, appointed by President Jimmy Carter, wrote in 2007 that the act made “a mockery of the careful boundaries between Congress and the courts that our Constitution’s framers believed so essential to the prevention of tyranny.”

And here, at long last, we come to the purpose of the title to this post. The judges are right, the pertinent portions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 are egregious in the way they attempt to choke off appeal rights of those we seek to murder. And make no mistake about it, the death penalty is, both legally and morally, nothing but state sanctioned murder.

The reason the Federal judges are so up in arms about the AEDA of 1996 is that it is literally a chokehold on fair and equitable application of the Constitutional right to Habeas Corpus. Title I of the Act substantially amends federal habeas corpus law as it applies to both state and federal prisoners, whether on death row or imprisoned for a term of years, by providing a bar on federal habeas reconsideration of legal and factual issues ruled upon by state courts in most instances, creation of a general 1 year statute of limitations, creation of a 6 month statute of limitation in death penalty cases, encouragement for states to appoint counsel for indigent state death row inmates during state habeas or unitary appellate proceedings, and a requirement of appellate court approval for repetitious habeas petitions which are often a condemned man’s only hope of redress before his life is taken.

What the death penalty and rights restrictive legislation like this does is turn capital juries and Federal appellate panels into "death panels". Not the ginned up fraudulent baloney from Sarah Palin and the rightwing healthcare haters, but real, live, death panels that are choked off from the ability to do justice and equity. Serious people trying to do the most serious work imaginable, determining life or death of a fellow human being. This is an absolute moral, and arguably legal, invasion of the separation of powers and province of the judicial branch. If you want to really get a taste of what a pissed off Federal judge has to say about this, in a flagrant case where a potentially innocent man is up for execution, read the dissenting opinion from Judge Fletcher described in the NYT article. It is long, but eye opening, fascinating and worthwhile reading.

As Edward Bennett Williams eloquently stated of our founding principles:

Our philosophy of criminal jurisprudence is that the government of the state must prove the guilt or the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. If they fail to do this, then we leave the defendant to the majestic vengeance of God if he be guilty because of the basis philosophy of our criminal jurisprudence is that it’s far far better than ten guilty men go free that that one innocent man go to the penitentiary convicted of a crime of which he’s not guilty.

The Founding Fathers were wise. If the United States cannot muster the gumption to join the rest of the civilized world and abolish the death penalty, we darn sure need to roll back the egregious provisions in Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and return the scales of justice to the neutral and detached judiciary.

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70 replies
  1. freepatriot says:

    robert alton harris has not committed a crime in the state of california since he was executed

    he has been effectively deterred from committing crimes against the people of California

    so these two guys are just flat fucking wrong

    the authors conclude claims that the death penalty saves lives and acts as a deterrent “are simply not credible.

    unless they can prove that robert alton harris has committed a crime since we executed him, they don’t know what they are talking about

    the death penalty ain’t perfect, but it works

    • bmaz says:

      Well, if you just housed them instead of killing them, think of how many state services you could pay for and children you afford to give healthcare and an education; kind of germane thoughts in Kaleefornyah currently there you know.

      • freepatriot says:

        maybe you ain’t been payin attention

        some of our budget problems stem from the cost of prison guards

        and then ya gotta consider that robert alton harris isn’t assaulting prison guards or other prisoners, he isn’t using or selling controlled substances

        he ain’t corrupting prison guards

        he ain’t even spitting on the sidewalks

        you gotta admit, he’s been effectivly detered

        the death penalty ain’t administered perfectly (especially in America, cuz of all the racial bullshit we got going on)

        but it works

        • bmaz says:

          I understand fully what you are saying, but I have seen the statistics and studies over about a twenty five year period; I am no rookie at this, I been around the criminal justice system. Heck, I have even represented California prison guards (criminal offense committed while in the act of transporting a capital defendant in Arizona). The outrageous prison system in California is not primarily due to death row inmates, and if you truly wanted to save money, you would imprison them for life as opposed to going through the tribulations of trying to kill them. That is the root conclusion. If you still want to advocate the death penalty, fine, but at least admit the facts behind it.

        • dakine01 says:

          Hate to disagree with you but the death penalty has never worked as a deterrent.

          Otherwise Great Britain in the 18th Century would have been the safest country on earth, with all of the various hanging offenses.

          And Texas, today, would be the safest place in the world to be given all of the executions.

          Or maybe China. Or Iran. Or Saudi Arabia. All countries with extensive death penalty laws.

          They’re not.

          • skdadl says:

            I come from the school that holds that state murder diminishes us all and corrupts the political culture we’ve inherited from the Enlightenment, so your examples seem most persuasive to me.

            Even in my modest country, we’ve had too many serious wrongful-conviction cases that would have led to capital punishment in the past but were overturned by DNA evidence, sometimes a generation later. One of the striking things about inquiries into those cases is how hard the original investigators find it to admit that they were wrong, even in the face of clear proof. They sit on the stand; an attorney asks them to admit that that guy over there who they put away twenty years ago is innocent; and they cannot do it, they just can’t. Amazing phenomenon.

            Those are the people who scare me.

            • chetnolian says:

              Interesting, because we have just had such a case in England (not the UK!)We released a convicted murderer after 27 years and only a couple of months later the police exhumed, for DNA confirmation, the body of a man now presumed to be the real murderer. They knew six months after the original conviction but omitted to mention it!

        • phred says:

          Sure. It works on innocent people too. But you are ok with that, given your familiarity with the perfection of our criminal justice system. Got it.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      Correct. But do you think Harris’s execution detered EVEN ONE other person from committing murder?

      For the price of one Calif execution, I could house 80 inmates for 100 years each in supermax. If they could be held in medium security, that number goes to about 400.

      This does not even cover the mental health of the prison execution teams. It’s hard on them and we pay for that as well.

      EVERY state with the death penalty has had at least one person removed from death row due to innocence. That’s simply too many screwups for something that it’s critical we get right.

      Lock ‘em up and feed them through a slot in the door. When they die of their own free will, bury them.

      Boxturtle (There are people who deserve death. But I’m patient and simply not willing to pay for it)

      • freepatriot says:

        Lock ‘em up and feed them through a slot in the door. When they die of their own free will, bury them.

        it’s not that simple

        we have a prison that does essentially what you describe (Pelican Bay)

        and it just makes the criminals more violent

        habitual criminal laws have the same results

        the death penalty should be reformed so that it only applies to career criminals

        as it is most often applied in America, the death penalty is wrong. a person who commits one crime of passion should not be eligible

        but when a person has a history of criminal activity and violence against people, we shouldn’t waste the money to keep them alive

        the death penalty doesn’t need to be abolished

        we’re just killing the wrong assholes, that’s all

        • ghostof911 says:

          Then you’re basically agreeing with bmaz’s hypothesis, that it costs a hell of a lot of money figuring out what assholes to kill.

          • freepatriot says:

            worse

            I would say that we’re wasting a lot of money to kill the wrong assholes

            the death penalty should have conditions that most people wouldn’t meet

            prior felony convictions

            gang affiliation

            stuff like that

            it wouldn’t cost more to focus on the people who are beyond redemption

            and I know some of the assholes we’re talkin about

            our prison system is being overwhelmed by foolish drug laws

            prohibition has spawned the predictable crime wave

            and now we have a permanent subculture of violent criminals

            does anybody else think we’re living in the roaring 20s ???

            • ghostof911 says:

              our prison system is being overwhelmed by foolish drug laws

              It doesn’t help when the government itself is implicated in the drug business. Opium production increased twenty-fold in the first year after the U.S. removed the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. No doubt some of the heroin being processed in Afghanistan is coming across our borders. The CIA has long been implicated in drug trafficking in Southeast Asia.

              • bmaz says:

                Whoo doggy, no kidding; not to mention the crack versus powder cocaine inequity (which also has a total racial bias to boot).

                • ghostof911 says:

                  They are making money on both ends. They are dumping the crack in the streets and profiting from the sales. They are also profiting from housing inmates in the for-profit private prison systems.

                  Check out the story of the two judges in eastern PA implicated in accepting bribes from private prisons in exchange for sentencing juveniles to excessively long prison terms.

        • bmaz says:

          You have not been eating trolls lately; must be hungry. Here, chew on our solution here in Arizona. We just let Bonzai Bob Vickers take care of the riff raff. There is actually at least one more victim, possibly more, that are not mentioned in here because they never could connect up the dots

    • PJBurke says:

      The assertion:

      robert alton harris has not committed a crime in the state of california since he was executed… he has been effectively deterred from committing crimes against the people of California

      is a popular, often-deployed canard which is too cute by half. There is no purpose in attempting to inhibit the voluntary behavior of one who has already been deprived of that particular behavior option by force.

      Deterrence is the inhibiting effect intended to be provoked in the wider societal audience observing state action. One who has already been incarcerated needn’t be persuaded not to do something which he — for the largest part — can’t do anyway.

  2. ghostof911 says:

    It does have a practical purpose. It provides a stepping stone for a governor to reach the White House.

    Junior

    In his five years as governor of Texas, the state has executed 131 prisoners — far more than any other state.

    Bill

    Gradually, Clinton became a more willing executioner.

    • ghostof911 says:

      In Bush’s case, the governorship was a testing ground for him to demonstrate to the king-makers that he was capable committing atrocities without batting an eye.

  3. bobschacht says:

    bmaz,
    Good essay! Thanks.
    There’s something else going on here, that I wrote about in a comment a few days back. I think that it may be a mistake to dismiss the Deathers this way:

    Why is the death penalty still prevalent in the United States? Primitive bloodlust is about the only rational answer.

    You began with this thesis:

    What is the purpose of the death penalty in a modern society at this point? Sure isn’t deterrence. In an article in the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Dr. Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia University writes,

    There is no reliable, scientifically sound evidence that [shows that executions] can exert a deterrent effect…. These flaws and omissions in a body of scientific evidence render it unreliable as a basis for law or policy that generate life-and-death decisions. To accept it uncritically invites errors that have the most severe human costs.

    In accord are John Donnohue and Justin Wolfers in an article entitled “The Death Penalty: No Evidence for Deterrence”, where the authors conclude claims that the death penalty saves lives and acts as a deterrent “are simply not credible.”

    You see? You appeal to evidence. You’re a pragmatist. Do you remember the scorn heaped on Bill Clinton by Republicans for being a pragmatist? They almost succeeded in demonizing pragmatism.

    The antithesis of pragmatist in these debates is ideology. The Deathers are not irrational; they are in fact quite rational. They are ideologically committed to certain beliefs. Their response to pragmatists is “Don’t confuse me with facts; my mind is made up.”

    They come to these beliefs not irrationally, but guided by an ideology that seems superficially reasonable. Sure, the Death Penalty ought to be a deterrent, to anyone who values life, especially their own. But what they don’t realize and don’t acknowledge is that society does not value the lives of the underclass. Society tells them, Your life is worthless. So why should they value it? Their prospects are dim, anyway. So their ideological presuppositions don’t generalize the way they assume.

    To get anywhere in this debate with the Deathers, one has to see the underlying Pragmatism vs. Ideology meme. Rather than dismissing them as irrational (how will that win them over?), we need to engage with them on an ideological level (they will ignore “evidence”).

    Bob in HI

  4. PJBurke says:

    What do all these developed first order modern countries have in common?

    Hmmm…. do they all refer to soccer as “football?”

    /snark

  5. DLoerke says:

    It only costs a lot to maintain death rows because we give them interminable appeals. I say…one appeal and your done. Off to the chamber (or firing squad…or hanging) with you…

    • dakine01 says:

      So you would have had no problem in executing the more than 120 death row inmates who have been exonerated and shown to be innocent, usually after going through multiple rounds of appeals?

      Why does that not surprise me?

  6. bobschacht says:

    There’s another aspect of the whole debate about prisons.
    In the American mind, the primary purpose of adult prisons is *punishment.* The idea of rehabilitation is restricted to juveniles, and reappears magically during the last phase of an adult prisoner’s sentence, when the prospect of his/her release into the public finally looms as certain. In the American mind, punishment is *assumed* (this is ideology, not pragmatism) that rehabilitation follows automatically from punishment.

    We would be a whole lot better off, as a society, if adult imprisonment would focus (seriously) on rehabilitation rather than punishment.

    Bob in HI

    • ghostof911 says:

      Better that “rehabilitation” would be diagnosis and attempted treatment of mental health problems and substance abuse issues.

      • bmaz says:

        And education. Don’t know what they are in the last 3-4 years, but the last time I argued this, the functional illiteracy rate in US prisons is between 60%-70%. It is also a good predictor in society over all for future criminal behavior and illiteracy rate is actually used as a predictor of future prison needs and budgeting here.

        • ghostof911 says:

          Agreed, but that’s a hard sell, considering this is not an enlightened society, where obtaining funding for general public education is a constant struggle.

        • T-Bear says:

          (edit) A brilliant post – as usual.

          And education. … the functional illiteracy rate … is also a good predictor in society over all for future criminal behavior and illiteracy rate is actually used as a predictor of future prison needs and budgeting here.

          If this be true, Mexico and Canada may start insisting upon the completion of the security walls at the borders, for their security. Got to keep the inmates in.

          IIRC the illiteracy rate was about 10% and the functional illiteracy rate was about 10% and from personal observation there is an effective illiteracy rate of another 20% (observations taken a decade and a half ago). From reports emanating from the homeland, those rates are increasing geometrically as the educational system fails to educate.

          What gets out from the corporate media, their lineup of babbling heads et al, and the circus attending public meetings on the health (insurance) care, a 60% effective illiteracy rate is not out of the question. How does this read in your predictor of future prison needs?

          Illiteracy here is the inability to read and derive meaning from printed words: functionally illiterate is the incapacity to read and derive meaning from printed words without great effort: effective illiteracy is the failure to make an effort to read and derive meaning from printed word.

      • bobschacht says:

        Absolutely true! The jails are the modern dumping ground, now that our current system is biased against institutionalized treatment of those with mental health needs.

        Bob in HI

  7. Jkat says:

    damned excellent post bmaz .. and btw .. who are the “others” we’re aligned with on the death penalty …

    it costs a hell of a lot of money figuring out what assholes to kill.[first]

    there ..fixed it for ya ..

  8. ghostof911 says:

    The incredible irony in all this is the one individual responsible for signing the most executions in U.S. history, GWB, is potentially implicated in various war crimes, for which he is likely never to be held acoountable.

    It all depends on what side of the tracks you come from.

  9. njr83 says:

    is there a routine to visit Marcy at Salon without all the advertising covering up her paragraphs?

    back to read bmaz for now…

  10. skdadl says:

    O/T but related: the federal appeals court here has upheld an earlier federal court order that the Harper government must attempt to repatriate Omar Khadr from GTMO, his Charter rights having been violated in a number of ways. We’re just waiting for Harper and his foreign affairs minister to say something to the cameras. They have one appeal left — the Supremes — but they are looking so bad on this score lately (two very bad cases of Canadians abandoned overseas) that I think they may decide to … try … to comply … if they really have to.

  11. Jkat says:

    i don’t think the death penalty should apply to any case where the person convicted was brought to trial on circumstantial evidence .. or where there is a question of guilt .. but .. i agree with freepatriot otherwise .. and yes life should be respected .. but that doesn’t extend to those who have no respect for the lives of others ..

    bonzai bill is a good example .. he’s killed others even while locked up .. and imo ..by his total lack of regard for the sanctity of life .. has forfeited any consideration for the sanctity of his life .. he is and will always remain a danger to others .. even behind bars ..

    maybe you naysayers would like to volunteer and risk your life feeding the critter ..eh ?? didn’t think so .. but how do you justify the risk of the life of other prisoners .. or the guards who have to deal with the puke ??

    different strokes for different folks .. eh ..

    • skdadl says:

      I understand perfectly well that some people have to be restrained — there just is no option — but why do you want to kill them? To me, that does not follow.

      Nobody else in the Western world considers it impossible to build jails/gaols that can hold dangerous offenders safely. Why are Americans so convinced that they can’t do it?

      • Jkat says:

        well.. skdadl .. truth be told “i” don’t want to kill anyone .. but ..sad truth .. some folks leave you no choice .. and when it’s kill or be killed .. philosophy takes a back seat .. and “good guys..n’ galz’ ” finish last .. you really can’t negotiate with psychopaths …

        i don’t like it .. but there it is .. sorry .. when some incarcerated cretin continues to take human life even behind bars .. they pose a direct threat to even to the guards ..

        what’s a reasoning animal to do ??

        my suggestion has always been to let the “do gooders” [no disparagement intended] take ‘em in .. and water ‘em .. and see how long their philosophic detachment survives the actual reality of living with a homicidal maniac ..

        so i respectfully and cordially agree to disagree ..

        best to you ..

  12. fatster says:

    Just one more excellent article, bmaz. While certainly not written from a legal perspective, this short piece by HHDL covers most of the other (moral) bases. One small comment he made illustrates how we harm ourselves collectively by our inability to recognize actions that contribute to keeping the death penalty:

    “In fact, if we take television programming as an example, violence, including killing, is regarded as having a high entertainment value.”

  13. fatster says:

    O/T (Old Topic): This is so pathetic.

    Christian News Show Poses The Real Question On C St.: How Many Affairs Has It Thwarted?
    By Zachary Roth – August 14, 2009, 1:33PM

    “Here’s some summer Friday fun.

    “The right-wing Christian Broadcasting Network does damage control for C Street, explaining that the real question isn’t, how many affairs were covered up, but rather, “how many affairs were thwarted.”

    “Best part: In a moment which gets at the, um, tensions inherent in a religious-based journalism enterprise, anchor Gordon Robertson applauds C Street for its secrecy, which, he says, allows it to minister more effectively to its members. Says Roberston: “God bless em!”‘

    Includes video.

      • fatster says:

        Yes, and their minds too. “Be mindful, and strive on” just doesn’t resonate with some people. Sad.

    • bobschacht says:

      Christian News Show Poses The Real Question On C St.: How Many Affairs Has It Thwarted?

      The interesting premise of this question is that sexual affairs are even more rampant among religious Republicans than is already known. File this under “Damning with faint praise”?

      Bob in HI

      • fatster says:

        Silly people, thinking they can get ahead of the next news cycle about their little bidness. On the downside, just imagine the carnival atmosphere that will abound if they start trotting out members who will recount how their lustfulness was thwarted by their C St brethren.

  14. fatster says:

    O/T (KKKKarl and the USAs). Nice summary of the situation over the past week, which many of us have been following. Also includes an Amy Goodman video.

    A Political Fragging

    “Documents released from the House Judiciary Committee’s two-year investigation into the U.S. Attorney firing scandal reveal that New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias was fired at the insistence of Karl Rove because he refused to use his office to advance the partisan agenda of the Republican Party during an election cycle.”

    More and video.

  15. bobschacht says:

    Jkat @ 48,
    You are making a whole lot of presuppositions in your characterizations of the incarcerated population– Sounds to me like the sweeping generalizations about the ”terrorists” at GITMO, which Cheney likes to call the ”worst of the worst.” Only, once their cases were reviewed, the review showed that half of them were there for no good reason at all.

    We put people in jail for *very specific* crimes, not for sweeping generalizations. And just because someone has committed one crime does not mean that they are going to commit indiscriminant crimes if they are released. Statements like yours are usually based on ignorance and sweeping generalizations, not knowledge of particulars.

    Bob in HI

  16. chetnolian says:

    Lots of good stuff here bmaz but please do not, ever, describe the United Kingdom as England! The United Kingdom is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, i.e. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Nothing else. It is NOT ENGLAND. Case you’ve missed it, I’m a Scot, though living in Engalnd.

  17. Teddy Partridge says:

    It’s barbaric, cruel, unusual, state-sanctioned murder.

    But in America, that’s a feature not a bug.

  18. Twain says:

    Considering some of the poor “lawyering” and poorly qualified police, labs, etc., I wonder how many innocent people have been put to death in this country? Especially if they have dark skin. The death penalty is barbaric and should not be allowed.

  19. RevBev says:

    OT>>>>Health care debate focus on Moyers tonight…including Kathleen Hall Jamison, among others. Stay tuned…

  20. john in sacramento says:

    Well, since California was brought up. To quote myself …

    The Death Penalty is not only capricious and biased, the Schwarzenegger Admin. has failed to disclose methods of lethal injection protocol and has embarked …

    … upon the construction of a new execution chamber – in secret and without the necessary legislative approval. At last count, the cost to taxpayers was about $850,000.

    The Death Penalty in itself costs the state $250 million annually even without any executions. And that instead of the Death Penalty, giving people a sentence of Life Without Parole would save the state $4 billion

    Even murder victims families think the Death Penalty is wrong …

    Even internationally known corrections consultant are now abolitionists. And since …

    1973, over 130 people have been released from death rows throughout the country due to evidence of their wrongful convictions. In 2003 alone, 10 wrongfully convicted defendants were released from death row.

    Videos and links

    All typos *g* and emphasis is mine

    • bmaz says:

      John, thanks, exactly the kind of argument I was making. Can you tell us what time period the $4 billion is spread over? That isn’t in one year is it?

    • bpollen says:

      According to available evidence, Ed Gein was probably guilty of *1* murder (no witnesses to the event, hence no proof.) He was suspected in other murders, including his mother and brother. Once again, no prooof. So, though Gein has been a popular bogeyman for decades, he is not known to be a serial killer. (Interestingly enough, I had an acquaintance who was once in the same psychiatric hospital. He was described to me as a sad old man suffering from dementia.)

      IMHO, the death of even ONE innocent person invalidates any benefit to be gained by state-sanctioned murder. And the likelihood of our having executed innocent men or women is much greater than the likelihood that you (or I) would be personally harmed by anyone who got life without parole as opposed to the death penalty.

      When you consider that some courts have ruled that DNA evidence proving that someone else is guilty of a crime does not mean that the innocent person incarcerated must necessarily have his conviction vacated, or even be allowed parole, the presumption of innocence is simply rhetoric.

  21. AngelsAwake says:

    I’m totally okay with the death penalty, and I don’t see myself as engaging in wild bloodlust. Personally, I just think it’s kind of fair- murder someone, die yourself.

    Now, I understand that we have huge systematic issues with the way the death penalty is applied- for one thing, we seem so much happier to kill minorities than we do to kill white people- but the basic concept itself seems fair to me.

    I’m just curious as to what others think. Let’s take a hypothetical. Ed Gein, for example, a serial killer, or Ted Bundy, also a serial killer. Why should we not kill them? What’s the justification?

    • RevBev says:

      Whenever does eye for an eye, or letting your bad behavior justify my bad behavior win the day? …what happens to a moral code? The State acts on behalf of the citizenry, and I do not want the state killing in my name. I always find it amazingly ironic when the most vocal anti-abortion voice is pro-death penalty.

      • fatster says:

        I agree with you, RevBev, but I must point to yet one more contradiction: most of us who are opposed to the death penalty also support a woman’s right to be in charge of her body, including the right to choose abortion. Such moral quandaries! I appreciate the gentle approach that making a choice such as abortion should be viewed with compassion.

    • bmaz says:

      If the case is truly proved beyond a reasonable doubt, and I am not talking about the jury verdict (trust me juries convict innocent people every day) but effectively all doubt – then I do not have a moral problem with it. But there has to be full exhaustion of appeals and Habeas challenges to insure any doubt has been addressed. Some defendants, like Banzai Bob Vickers I described and linked to earlier, would as soon be executed. I have no absolute problem with those cases. I do not like the state killing people; but I am not an absolutist on that. But quite frankly, it is the cost that is the clincher for me. It is simply a waste of money and I cannot fathom the thought of an innocent man being executed.

    • phred says:

      Let’s take a hypothetical. Ed Gein, for example, a serial killer, or Ted Bundy, also a serial killer. Why should we not kill them? What’s the justification?

      Ummm, because we are better than they are?

      This is a trick question right?

  22. PJEvans says:

    The last guy who died on death row in CA died of old age. This week. We pay a lot to keep them locked up until they die, anyway, but I suspect that simply having a ‘life without parole’ section in a prison would be less expensive than having a ‘death row’.

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