by Crane-Station


According to a May 6, 2013 report from the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) that relies on data through January of this year, 30% of the executions in America take place as a result of death sentences imposed in just 15 of a total 3148 counties in the US. The study considers data from 1976 on, a period that is called the “modern era of capital punishment” (that is, post-Gregg v. Georgia).

To put it succinctly, one-third of all executions come from less than one-half of one percent of all of the counties in the United States. DPIC also reports that “Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 through to April 2013, almost 82% of the executions have been in the South.” Furthermore, even though death sentences are handed down as a result of convictions in only a handful of counties within a given state, the expense is shared by all of the taxpayers in that given state.

Each of the 37 states that still has capital punishment has only one death chamber, at the maximum security state prison. A state-by-state list is here. How much does it cost to kill someone in one of these chambers, and is it worth it, then? Consider the 2011 California study:


Assessment of Costs by Judge Arthur Alarcon and Prof. Paula Mitchell (2011, updated 2012)

The authors concluded that the cost of the death penalty in California has totaled over $4 billion since 1978:
$1.94 billion–Pre-Trial and Trial Costs
$925 million–Automatic Appeals and State Habeas Corpus Petitions
$775 million–Federal Habeas Corpus Appeals
$1 billion–Costs of Incarceration

The authors calculated that, if the Governor commuted the sentences of those remaining on death row to life without parole, it would result in an immediate savings of $170 million per year, with a savings of $5 billion over the next 20 years.

The 187-page California study begins by noting that California taxpayers have shelled out “roughly $4 billion” to fund “no more than 13 executions.” The study authors further point out that a severe backlog will delay more than 700 cases, for more than 20 years.

Since the money argument fails completely, what arguments are left? Surely, state-sanctioned homicide, given its immense expense, must be a deterrent, right? Actually, the data not only fails to support this theory, the opposite is true: murder rate decline occurs in regions where the death penalty is decreasing. According to a 2011 report released by the FBI:

On October 29, the U.S. Justice Department released the annual FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2011, indicating that the national murder rate dropped 1.5% from 2010. This decline occurred at a time when the use of the death penalty is also decreasing nationally. The Northeast region, which uses the death penalty the least, had the lowest murder rate of the 4 geographic regions, and saw a 6.4% further decrease in its murder rate in 2011, the largest decrease of any region. By contrast, the South, which carries out more executions than any other region, had the highest murder rate.

The top 15 counties for executions map is shown here.

Also, there have been 306 post-conviction DNA exonerations nationwide, and there is no question that innocent people have been executed in the US. Ray Krone is the 100th American to be sentenced to death and then later exonerated. To browse the profiles for DNA exonerations, go here.

Even though it is common knowledge that innocent people on death row have been exonerated through DNA test results, some prosecutors continue to try to deny access to this testing. Amazing, isn’t it, that prosecutors would push forward with a conviction and a death sentence, knowing that it may not only be wrongful, but that there is a likelihood that someone who did commit a violent crime remains free and will commit further violent crimes?


The Death Penalty in 2012: Year End Report

Defense argues against death penalty in shootings, claiming that the death penalty is arbitrary and unconstitutional.

Accused Aurora shooter James Holmes to plead not guilty by reason of insanity (Guardian)

Arkansas Republican endorses death penalty for children

Breaking News: Execution Stayed in Mississippi Willie Manning maintains his innocence. He was convicted on hair and ballistics testing. “This past week, the FBI notified the state that there were flaws in both the hair and ballistics evidence that was used to convict Manning. The FBI also agreed to do the DNA testing.”

Cross posted from Firedoglake

88 Responses to Disparity

  1. Dennis says:

    I felt I would share an interesting episode of Tales from the Crypt.

    The Man Who Was Death – A prison executioner (William Sadler) is laid off from his job and begins administering his own justice to acquitted murder suspects.

  2. Two sides to a story says:

    Books can open minds and doors

  3. Two sides to a story says:

    “I’’m young maybe one day I will read or experience something to push me one way or the other.”

    I’m not young. I’ve been around the block many times and have seen the deep, dark, ugly side of the red, white, and blue. There are plenty of people here who would pull the US to the level of some infamous dictatorships. Like this – http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/10/08/arkansas-republican-endorses-death-penalty-for-children/

    Our government imprisons more people per capita than any other nation in the world and also slaughters more civilians in questionable wars than any other nation in the world. What does that make us? How is our government that much different than the list of other countries who employ the death penalty?

    Van der Sloot may have gotten away here too. It’s not easy to prosecute someone without a body and solid physical evidence. The death penalty has long been proven to not be a deterrent to crime, nor does having one guarantee that the right person is brought to trial, convicted, and executed. That has been proven over and over and over again.

    • Shari says:

      I hope for you this isn’t a partisanship problem. The right and left do come together on civil liberties. One example is Rand Paul’s filibuster. I was in the gym that day and listened to him on my CSPAN app. His motives were questioned but whatever his intentions I learned a lot and appreciated it. Libertarians and the ACLU frequently agree on civil liberties.

      I am very cynical about the process. Bush through his affable nature and religious language was able to convince many limited government conservatives to support things like the patriot act. Pat Buchanan and many “paleo cons” were strongly against Bush’s “axis of evil” and war doctrine. Obama because he wasn’t Bush has been able to silence the anti-war left. He has the ability to cause peace activists to no longer question the police state they say we are living in. Cindy /sheehan has been very let down and dissapointed that she has been abandoned in her fight.

      What are jails for? Are we rehabilitating people or punishing them? I have never supported prison as a deterrent because it isn’t one. There are people who feel trapped in a hopeless cycle of poverty. Jail for them isn’t a bad thing. Their friends are in jail, they get three hots and a cot. The death penalty for me is not about some sick satisfaction or relief at taking a criminals life. There is no relief. There are few cases where I support it. Serial killers who are sociopaths. Those who are released to kill and torture again.

      I do think a lot. Especially about my morality and ethics. What actually lies beyond? I am brave enough to say that sometimes I’m not quite sure. Does all life hold value? Can I learn from someone, even a killer? I think about those things and they are all nice to ponder but in the mean time I live in this reality. Where I want to raise my children in a safe places. This ties in with Fogen. He is deranged, sick. No regard for human life. And he would do it again.

      I was supposed to get off the computer. 😦 Back in a couple of hours. Must go out and live life 🙂

      • Two sides to a story says:

        Good post!

        As long as we’re all asking questions, we’re on the path to discovery. That’s half the battle.

        Enjoy the sunshine and fresh air.

    • LeaNder says:

      Obama because he wasn’t Bush has been able to silence the anti-war left.

      I like Jim Lobe a lot, here his recent article on the Right Web concerning bi-partisan US interests concerning an intervention in Syria. The problem I see is you don’t know whom you ultimately will bring to power. It may not be better. There are quite few groups involved and some of them may be even worse for the people, if you ask me. Remember Iraq, how that worked out? I do not think one can bomb people into “democracy”.

      • Shari says:

        I’m not necessarily in disagreement. The people we identify as the “good rebel freedom fighters” may be the terrorists of tomorrow that we trained and armed. Niall Ferguson warned Obama about his Libya policy. As a culture we Americans transitioned into the society we have become. We should let others do the same. Okay they can now vote but we see who they are voting for. It’s very tragic and sad to see American troops protecting the people of Iraq while they participate in “free and fair elections.”

        • LeaNder says:

          What is frightening that the same pundits are involved that supposedly already recanted concerning the Iraq war. Or more precisely that they can be involved once again. Remember the WMD in Iraq, that only left a tiny rumor trace from special interest groups that they were found but it was covered up?

          Bipartisan support makes this look very dangerous. Let’s see if the demanded boots on the ground will find the poison gas this time.

          I have been following Jim Lobe for over a decade by now. His family had to leave Frankfurt under the Nazis. These are the Jewish voices I love. Netanayhu not so much. 😉

      • LeaNder says:

        But a combination of an ever-climbing death toll, Hezbollah’s increased involvement, the rise of radical Islamist groups within the insurgency, and the initial — albeit yet to be confirmed — estimates by U.S., Israeli, and Western European intelligence agencies that Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons, as well as Obama’s apparently offhand public warnings during last year’s election campaign that such use would cross a “red line”, have propelled some prominent liberals — most recently, New York Times columnist Bill Keller and former senior Obama policy official Anne Marie Slaughter — into their camp

        Isn’t it slightly odd, that once Obama has declared a red line, some of you may remember Netanjahu’s red line cartoon, exactly this red-line event supposedly happened? They must be suicidal, I doubt they would want to draw America in. I also doubt they don’t follow US news concerning their country.

        One thing is clear, the US, Israel and Europe will support the insurgency, well then we have to live with whoever manages to seize power.

        Something about this WOT felt like a self-fulfilling prophecy, ultimately producing a real clash of cultures. Remember it is supposed to supplant the cold war for decades to come. Lets see when the war moves to our own cities.

        How much more money can the US empire spend to pacify the whole Middle East? What will happen to Americans needs in the process?

        And last but not least, I do not believe one can bomb people into democracy. Egypt was fascinating, but it also showed me that people did not get what they struggled and died for. Do you notice a difference between Egypt and Syria? What money does flow into diverse insurgency camps and from what sources. To what extend are our own services involved? What are our specific interests?

  4. Shari says:

    I don’t have a visceral reaction either way. What I will say is I don’t like when anti-death penalty activists compare us to places like Iran and other authoritarian regimes. It’s a provocative and inaccurate charge. It’s meant to offend and put the other view on the defensive. Because after all who wants to side with a country who is hanging teenagers for being gay?

    We are similar to other countries but in my view unlike any other. Our constitution is unique in that we are granted with many rights and protections against government over reach. Does it work all the time? Of course not, slavery and Japanese internment are two examples.

    On the issue of the death penalty I am not opposed. There is no contradiction with my religious belief because the OT commands us against murder, not killing. In the bible there is much killing, this has been a topic many atheists have used in debating religion with me. What I am opposed to in the death penalty is the application which can be arbitrary. Wasn’t there a Casey Anthony juror who said that she was uncomfortable with conviction because death was on the table? So I guess being a young, attractive, white female precludes you from death? Some countries are hesitant to extradite criminals because of our DP, correct?

    If we are going to send people to die we had better be sure they are guilty. I remember Scott Peterson had supporters because of the condition of Lacee’s remains we could not tell how she died. Mary Winkler said she shot her husband in the back while he was sleeping, then pulled the phone out the wall. Of course she accused him of many heinous things but we all know that only the person who lives can tell us what happened. She’s free and has custody of her children, her husbands parents have forgiven her. Then we have people on death row proclaiming their innocence. This is not fair.

    I am also uncomfortable because we know how people can be. A prosecutor may show bias against a poor criminal. A prosecutor may “like” an offender and choose not to charge him. We see how dangerous and unfair that can be in the case of Thugboat. On that night it was decided that his story would be believed and that he would be immune due to SYG. Remember that was their story. Their hands were tied that night by the law. I think we need to untie them. I believe in self defense but this SYG law encourages people to start mortal combat with people who are sitting ducks.

    Remember Joran Van Der Sloot. Criminals will usually mix in some truth with lies. I think it’s possible they were having fun on the beach and she changed her mind. Maybe he became angry, maybe she was drugged? She died and her remains were discarded. Of course this happened in Aruba so he was not subject to American Justice. Eventually he went on the be tried for the murder of a South American girl. What if Joran was American and Natalee had encountered him in Miami? What if her remains were found and he were put to death? His next victim would have been spared.

    I’m young maybe one day I will read or experience something to push me one way or the other.

    I’m going on too long, too much time on the computer! Have a great day I’ll finish later.

    • Dennis says:

      If that joke of a justice system in Aruba actually did its job, that poor girl in Peru never would have been murdered by that sick person. If that was my daughter that he murdered, I would have tortured that bastard until he gave up the location of her body.

  5. LeaNder says:

    This could be from the Onion, but it isn’t, Crane’s link is to the Raw Story. I have to admit I would like to slip into this type of mind and their specific religion to see what it feels like. Adopting the legal ideas of several thousand years ago? Interesting. Also quite interesting to what extend the WOT has shaped some American minds, no surprise the Muslim surface too.

    So this guy worked in the Department of Human Services, what exactly was your job there: Mr. attorney Charly Fuqua?

    • Two sides to a story says:

      Apalling opinion for someone in a leadership position of trust to the public. He should be booted out of office to the lunatic fringe where he belongs.

    • Malisha says:

      OMG the guy’s name —

      Leander, DHS is filled with people who are easily corruptible, vicious sadistic disgusting excuses for humans, and then the occasional really good person. And in between just a mass of people who do not care about anything.

      But the corrupt and dishonest ones do have a strange tendency to rise to power — well, no surprise there. Grabbing power is their specialty.

  6. Nef05 says:

    This is ridiculous. The Justice Dept indicated testimony overstepped, the FBI indicated their evidence analysis contained errors, and it took these people until hours before his execution to order a stay, when DNA testing is so readily available? This is unconscionable.

    Mississippi Supreme Court Issues Stay of Execution of Willie Jerome Manning

    “The Mississippi Supreme Court has blocked the execution of Willie Jerome Manning just hours before he was scheduled to die. The court voted 8-to-1, with Justice Michael Randolph objecting. The case attracted national attention after the FBI admitted that its original analysis of the evidence in Manning’s case contained errors. Just last week, the Mississippi Supreme Court refused to allow new DNA testing that could prove Manning’s innocence.

    Manning was convicted of murdering Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller, two white college students, in 1992. The Justice Department sent a letter saying one analyst’s testimony at trial “exceeded the limits of the science and was, therefore, invalid.” Manning’s attorneys argue that no physical evidence ties him to the murders and that testing hair samples and other evidence could identify a different killer.

    The Innocence Project hailed today’s court ruling. In a statement, the group said, “Hopefully, Manning, who has spent 20 years on death row maintaining his innocence in the deaths of Jon Steckler and Tiffany Miller, will now have the opportunity to do DNA testing that could prove his innocence. This past week, the FBI notified the state that there were flaws in both the hair and ballistics evidence that was used to convict Manning.”


    • Thank you for sharing this, Nef05, very much appreciated. I think it is important for people to be aware of situations like this case in Mississippi.

  7. Judy75201 says:

    I think it’s hard to argue which is more cruel: a death penalty or life in prison with no hope of parole.

    • Two sides to a story says:

      That’s true. Jodi apparently told reporters she wants to die. Freedom. That’s a moral conundrum. Do we execute people because they want it?

    • abbyj says:

      Judy, Agreed. I’ve always believed that both orms of punishment are so terrible that it’s hard to argue which is worse. As younger and younger perpetrators are being given “Life without Any Hope of Parole,” the suicide rates have increased significantly among this category of inmates. It is a mind-numbing process of cruelty for many; for others, they seem to acclimate well to prison society and adjust pretty well.

      It’s very difficult to determine what “punishment” means, in these two options. Are we just seeking punishment, are we hoping for rehabilitation [my vote is: slim chance there], or are we simply protecting society from violent members who prey on us? Much remains unclear.

  8. KA says:

    I lived in FL as a child and went to school in the same town as the first person was put to death in decades. I still remember his name today…John Spenkelink. The school was just a few miles from the prison where it took place. It bothered me a lot. I think I was around 10 or 11. I remember it being the topic of conversation even at a young age. The jokes about the electric chair and his fate were cruel, unfeeling, and inhumane. I just cannot, in any circumstance I think, dance on another’s grave.

    The death penalty has bothered me throughout my life. I am not sure how we play God over another’s life when doubt and misinformation is a legal possibility.

    • Two sides to a story says:

      I agree with you. This has bothered me since childhood too. Even with legal certainties, I don’t think it’s possible for humans to dispense capital punishment without creating karmic consequences. Good intentions really do pave the path to hellish consequences.

  9. Two sides to a story says:

    Great stuff, Crane. I’ll definitely be reading at all the links because ending the death penalty is a passion of mine.

    And thanks to all who comment here even if we don’t agree. I respect your opinions even if I don’t always read like I do.

  10. abbyj says:

    Sorry to ask a “how to” question, but I tried to add an avatar, and suddenly everything became complicated. Worldpress wouldn’t accept my actual account (since I am ME, using it) unless I went with a second account, abbyj1. I tried to delete it, but Worldpress has no direct means of contact. Any advice on to how to: 1) delete a second, faux account, and 2) to add an avatar? And here I thought I was pretty good at this crap. Thanks for any help. Apologies for being off topic.

  11. Judy75201 says:

    “Amazing, isn’t it, that prosecutors would push forward with a conviction and a death sentence, knowing that it may not only be wrongful, but that there is a likelihood that someone who did commit a violent crime remains free and will commit further violent crimes?”

    Not only amazing, but repugnant. The desire to preserve their reputation at the expense of another’s life reminds me of fogen JR. There is never a valid excuse to deny DNA testing.

    I believe in the death penalty, but rather in the way Kinky Friedman does: “…I’m damn sure anti-the-wrong-guy-getting-executed.”

    The blame for the monetary cost lies squarely on the shoulders of the justice machine. I don’t buy into cost alone being an argument against the death penalty. Why? Because I believe that the mere existence on earth of some humans is a detriment to every other living human. Their thoughts alone are poisonous, cancerous, destructive.

    There are people who have done such unspeakable things that I would have no trouble flipping the switch on them myself.

    • Almost anyone can think of someone who is so off-the-charts bad and irredeemable that it would seem criminal not to kill them, but that’s not the point.

      The point is where do we draw the line between those we sentence to death and those who we do not.

      This is what Justice Blackmon called “tinkering with the machinery of death.” After years of trying, he finally gave it up as an impossible task.

      I agree with him.

    • Two sides to a story says:

      Death takes us all. It’s utterly impossible to judge who should stay and who should go.

      There are many Buddhist and Hindu teaching tales about evil murderers becoming the most enlightened of teachers within the same lifetime.

      Do not be deceived – all is not what it seems.

      • Judy75201 says:

        Death does take us all. That’s part of why I have no problem with, in some cases, making it happen now instead of then–because it is inevitable anyway. We have the power to create life; to me that means we have the responsibility to take it at times as well, however distasteful that may seem. I am of course, talking about irrefutably guilty beings who have committed atrocities that are unimaginable.

      • Two sides to a story says:

        Perhaps you should read about people who have had a hand in executions, like prison wardents. Almost without exception, these folks regret this eventually and become anti-death penalty.

      • Judy75201 says:

        Actually, I have TwoSides, and I think you make a valid point.

      • Two sides to a story says:

        It’s also a fact that many families of people who are murdered think they will feel redeemed when the convicted is executed, and they don’t.

  12. Trained Observer says:

    Quick question: When the Arias jury was polled today … it went up to juror 18 — skipping a few numbers. It could be I couldn’t count to 12 as a total. But if not … does this mean alternates were not dismissed when deliberations began?

    Not so quick question: Depending on how things go, CNN was reporting this afternoon that an entirely new jury could be impanelled for the next Arias phase. It admitted that was not likely … and another commentator questioned the constitutionality of that.

    I didn’t understand that at all.

    • I don’t have a clue how this all works, but have referred this question to Fred. He is addressing it now, and thank you.

    • I have not followed this case at all until recently. I’m going to assume that they have excused some of the original 12 and replaced them with alternates who kept their original numbers.

      Only 12 should have participated in the deliberations,

      No, they will not pick a new jury.

      • Two sides to a story says:

        The next phase of the Arias trial begins tomorrow.

      • kindheart101 says:

        They started with 18. 3 were excused Professor, and 3 are still under instruction as alternates.

      • Trained Observer says:

        OK , I just watched a replay of the rendering and polling. There were juror numbers skipped. Numbers went to 18, but the total was indeed 12.

        Have yet to see a repeat on any remote possibility of seating a secondary jury, which seems as crazy as staging an immunity hearing within a trial.

      • kindheart101 says:

        @Trained Observer

        They selected 18 Jurors to listen to this case. All 18 sat in court, and heard the case. Juror #5 was released about a week and a half ago. Then, Juror # 11 was released last week. Then, I think it was Juror #8, was released a few days ago. These seats are not filled, and their numbers are not re-used. Before the Jury went into deliberations, the court drew the numbers of 3 alternate Jurors to fill their seats. So 5. 11 and 8 are still vacant, and three others were drawn to deliberate the case. There is still 3 alternate Jurors in case they are needed.

      • Trained Observer says:

        Thanx, kindheart

    • amsterdam1234 says:

      They picked 12 jurors and 6 alternates. I believe three were dismissed during the trial. At the end of the trial, they picked 3 jurors from the remaining jury pool to be the alternets. They were to observe the deliberations from another location. If one of the members of the 12 remaining members had to quit, they could replace them. The 12 remaining jurors were able to get a verdict.

      I kind of missed the explanation in what circumstance a new jury would be impaneled. Something to do with agrevation and the penalty phase.

  13. fauxmccoy says:

    i look forward to the day when our country joins the civilized world and abolishes the death penalty. i find our attempts to make such a thing ‘humane’ in order to avoid appearance of ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ to be absurd. my state, california, had the opportunity to end this practice just recently through a state initiative, which unfortunately did not prevail at the ballot. state sanctioned executions are rare here however and i can be grateful for that. i do believe that it will be abolished in my life time.

    it is my own belief that widespread violence in our society has a direct link to state sanctioned violence, be it warfare or executions. until we are ready to confront this, i expect to see no improvement on either front.

    thanks for the article, crane.

    • I agree fauxmccoy. I wish that we were not doing this. There is so much pain in the world as it is, and I think that putting someone in prison and throwing away the keys is enough, I really do.

    • Two sides to a story says:

      I was thoroughly disappointed when Cali narrowly missed banning the death penalty in the last election. I hope this comes back to a vote soon.

      Why should our country rate with places like Iran and North Korea when it comes to the death penalty?

    • abbyj says:

      fauxmccoy, I share your frustration. I too look forward to our country’s elimination of the death penalty and our joining the civilized world. Our state, California, has failed in many ways, but the State’s recent close study of the mechanism of the imposed death process itself was a step in the right direction. There is considerable hesitation to move too quickly with the death penalty in the state now. Further, there appears to be a movement to use economic resources more wisely now, but this is overlain with the crushing problem of prison overcrowding. I don’t know what the answer is.

  14. Malisha says:

    I bet the leading death counties are the counties where the political race for the position of prosecutor is the most vigorous and/or the position pays the most and leads to the most probable political advancement to attorney general and governor positions. Just sayin’ — money is involved.

    • I don’t know what the politics are in the counties (there is a map/link in the post) but I would not be at all surprised to find this to be the case. In fact, I would be surprised if it is not the case. Sadly.

      • abbyj says:

        Crane-Station, There’s something about the Bible belt that loves the death penalty. There’s your map.

    • Two sides to a story says:

      I agree and these are likely some of the most conservative counties in America as well.

      • Dave says:

        In general, these are the counties containing major cities (Houston, Dallas, Oklahoma City etc.) which are usually far more liberal than rural areas within the same states: heavily populated counties (with relatively high concentrations of African-Americans) in very conservative states.

        • cielo62 says:

          Dave- Houston? LIBERAL??? No way! Austin for sure, but Houston is as redneck backwards as any small southern backwater town. It’s strange it’s the fourth largest city in the US but has the mentality of Sanford!

          Sent from my iPod

      • Shari says:

        Yes I Iearned that instead of red/blue states we have a purple country with red/blue counties.

    • Shari says:

      I feel the need to defend Southern culture. The majority view here is that all people can be redeemed and that the death penalty is too final. All life has meaning. So how can it be that everything Southern is responsible for all that is bad with America? To some extent southern culture is American culture. The entrepreneurial spirit, hospitality, friendliness, hard workers (I know many young women who work in plants)

      I do not like the affinity for the confederate flag and there are too many cities where non whites are not welcome. Its not all bad though.

  15. Xena says:

    Very interesting. I have to take more time to read this. Needless to say, I was overjoyed when the death penalty was repealed in Illinois.

  16. racerrodig says:

    I don’t even know what to say on this. When I was young dad, being a cop, was all “execute them…save the taxpayers money” and it was a brainwashing when you’re a kid. Then in HS in sociology class, our teacher who was real good at logic, got us thinking long & hard. We came to the agreement that execution, and just facing it for any length of time is cruel.

    Most people fear death let alone knowing the exact day & time.

    • I used to believe it too. Back in the day, but I did not have this information. Today I believe it is enough to keep someone who has committed a horrible violent crime in prison. (Plus, if they are exonerated, for goodness sake, on DNA, for example, they can truly be exonerated as opposed to ‘oops, shit.’ Just my .02

    • abbyj says:

      @racerrodig, I agree in how you reached your conclusion. It’s been argued that just knowing of one’s impending death under the death penalty is “cruel and unusual” punishment. It must be be numbing as it is terrifying.

      There’s a really choice essay by Wm. F. Buckley–that literate model of Orwellian wit–in which he argued that the death penalty need not be either “cruel” nor “unusual.” His first premise was that the death penalty need not involve pain, torture, nor dismemberment. Therefore it is not cruel. Second, he argued that if we simply executed offenders much more often, then it would, per se, be a much more frequent practice, therefore not “unusual.” He thought that a few innocent people executed here and there was the price we’d pay for a safe society, since execution would still be a deterrent. Such rationalization over his gin.

      So I cut myself some slack with the death penalty. I allow myself to want it, in the human sense, in the cases of extreme depravity but, much more, I want my State to be very guarded in meting it out.

      • racerrodig says:

        I see a case where the proof is iron clad and the verdict is well beyond a reasonable doubt. The forensics all line up, throw a few ironclad witnesses or video in and I don’t have an issue with that one. The ones that are muddier……need to be looked at more.

      • abbyj says:

        racerrodig, It’s true. The ones that are in dispute have to be handled so carefully since so many unjust executions have always occurred. The work of The Innocence Project has shown us that. I’m still personally conflicted in that I know it’s only human to feel the anger toward cold-blooded killers, but I would want the State to be extremely certain in exacting death for a crime. The issue that remains immovable to me is protecting society from predators so that they can never live among us again. No “Three Strikes” for violent crimes. One, and you’re done forever.

        • No “Three Strikes” for violent crimes. One, and you’re done forever.

          Your solution is unworkable because experience has taught us that the odds of accurately predicting acts of future violence by a person convicted of a violent crime are no better than flipping a coin.

        • racerrodig says:

          Same here with 3 strikes. Most of them just learn how to perfect their craft in prison.

      • abbyj says:

        No “Three Strikes” for violent crimes. One, and you’re done forever.

        >Professor says: Your solution is unworkable because experience has taught us that the odds of accurately predicting acts of future violence by a person convicted of a violent crime are no better than flipping a coin.

        Every solution appears to carry its own inherent flaw, to the frustration of us all. How then, Professor, do we ensure that unrepentant perpetrators of truly violent crimes (not just hockey brawls) are permanently separated from society? Is that even a hope for our future? Would we set up a system of relative depravity, and that determines how the final decision for permanent removal is enforced? I find myself pondering the longtime psychological adage: The single greatest predictor of future behavior is past behavior. I know this doesn’t square with the law. What to do? Thank you.

  17. cielo62 says:

    Welcome to Texas, THE death penalty capital of the world! Actually I support the death penalty for cases of murder with extreme cruelty or rape. The costs don’t matter, since the bulk of those costs are all appeals. Unless new evidence emerges, I don’t feel there should be 20 years of appeals. I’m in a minority here, but that’s how I feel. It’s NOT revenge or vengence. It’s NOT monetary or preventative. It’s just plain housekeeping, getting rid of trash from society. Arias would qualify. I’m not so sure about GZ. Living would be more punishment than the death penalty in his case. IF murders had MORE options for Life without Parole, where Life is Life, I could stand doing away with the death penalty. But here where a “life sentence” means parole in 40 years, I don’t find that just at all.

    • William Walton says:

      cielo62, I also live in Texas. You might want to look at the data of those in Texas who have been exonerated based on DNA results conducted after they were incarcerated. It is true that King Perry prides himself on the number of executions/year. Also so did Bably Bush when he was governor. The system has to incorporate all aspects of forensic science before condeming one to death.

      • Those are chilling, for sure. Equally chilling was Perry’s comment/dodging of the question about killing innocent people, but that was just my take, I admit. Thank you for the read!

        • cielo62 says:

          Crane-station: I absolutely detest Rick Perry. He doesn’t care for people, just power, money and the big businesses that give him both. He doesn’t care if one innocent t guy dies on death row any more than he cares about multiple millions of texans dying for lack of medical care. He’s lower than melted gum under my sandal.

          Sent from my iPod

      • cielo62 says:

        William Walton- I agree 100%. DNA and every kind of evidence available EXCEPT eye witnesses. Nobody should get a death penalty based on eye witness testimony alone.

        Sent from my iPod

      • Bill Taylor says:

        dont forget tulia texas where about 50 people went to prison on phony drug charges…..a very poor town of about 200 was supporting 50 drug dealers????

        no a deputy sheriff was planting evidence……

        i recall perry taking offense at the NUMBER 5000, saying you think i could be bought for $5000……..freudian admission he cant be bought just was insulted by the price.

      • Bill Taylor says:

        can be bought i meant of course……the trans texas corridor as example……

    • I do disagree with you on the death penalty, but I do agree on the LWOP. Thank you for commenting and sharing your views, much appreciated, cielo!

      • cielo62 says:

        Crane-Station- and thank you for letting me do so without fear. Maybe when I get older I might change my mind, but I think about the victims more than the criminal. LWOP would satisfy me, but it’s as hard to get as the death penalty. There are too many violent criminals allowed to return to society where they do NOT belong.

        Sent from my iPod

    • Two sides to a story says:

      Your opinion that the death penalty isn’t revenge or vengeance doesn’t make it so . . .

      Though life imprisonment may be difficult and even cruel in some respects, it allows the space for reflection and for transformation. Dispatching people into the next life is rather absurd, considering how brief and tenous our lives are. We are all dead men walking.

      Who among us has the ability to decide who will live or who will die? No one knows the entire life or karmic history of any other person; therefore it’s not proper for anyone to presume someone deserves to die for a particular act. That’s what brings murderers into the courtroom to begin with.

      Without appeals, how would innocent or overcharged people unjustly punished have any way out?

      Who is to say that a parole after 40 years after a murder is not enough? People have varying karmic paths and their karma will determine what is sufficient punishment for their deeds.

      There is no human trash, only trashy actions. We all learn about what is proper and improper as we navigate through our eons of lifetimes. I believe if we knew all the things we have done over eons of time, we would shudder.

      A society without compassion and respect for life will reap only sorrow and suffering.

      • cielo62 says:

        Two Sides- I was stating my own opinion for my support of the death penalty. To me, the decision is an emotional one but a practical one. Individuals will have their own beliefs in support or against it. In a purely secular way, some people have shown an inability to abide my the simplest of societal rules to not murder. His/her karmic rehabilitation is a church concern, not a state concern. My compassion is for those in society who have a right to live free from fear of being murdered. I didn’t say there shouldn’t be appeals, but 20 years on death row is also cruel and unusual punishment. Often these criminals have only procedural appeals, not evidentiary. I respect your opinion, as well as Amsterdam’s. yes, there is disparity in how it is applied. But I believe it has appropriate applications. This issue will continue to evolve as our society struggles with it. I thank you for listening to my opinion. In some cases, I would have no qualms about sentencing someone to death. Would it bother me? Probably. Taking a life isn’t easy and shouldn’t be easy. But it would still be the right thing to do.

        Sent from my iPod

    • abbyj says:

      @cielo62, I deeply feel your concern about truth in sentencing. It’s a travesty of justice when sentences are commuted or shortened. There are moments when I despair, also.The death penalty seems a broken mechanism with its lack of the most basic, standards of criteria in its application from one state to the next.

      One reads, as professor here has provided us, the staggering cost of the death penalty we pay to enjoy it. We also know of the extreme biases in application of the death penalty throughout the decades (over-eager execution of minorities and the poor). Then, there’s the failure to implement accepted scientific analyses in establishing proof of guilt. These “glitches” in the system seem not to deter the states that love their death penalty.

      I always hoped that the State would seek a higher moral standard that we do as flawed human beings. After all, we should have the right to feel the very human flood of emotions. Yet, the State should hold to a higher standard and reserve death penalty for the most extreme form of punishment. Your comment about “getting rid of trash” is our human feeling.

      Judge Judy was asked earlier this week about the men who’d held three women as hostages for ten years, “My response as a judge is that the courts will determine the guilt of these men. As a human being, I say, ‘Give me a dull knife.'” This is what it means to be human, IMO, and I agree with her, but the State should represent the best in us.

      I remember all too well that George W. during his gubernatorial rein of Texas was asked how how felt about signing 153 death warrants, and he laughed, “I never lost a wink of sleep. I slept like a baby.”

      I don’t know if my comment helps, but there is something lesser than who we want to be when the human desire for revenge, the very real desire “to get rid of the trash,” becomes one and the same as the law of the State or the law of the nation. With the death penalty so inequitably applied, so capriciously used, and not held to nationwide scientific or legal standards, it’s a punishment that always bears close scrutiny.

    • Lonnie Starr says:

      I can understand your wish to “take out the trash”, unfortunately, in the real world, if you’re going to “take out the trash” you’re going to also have to take some innocent people out in the same basket. There is simply no way around it because, the system we use to decide guilt or innocence is imperfect and can even be fooled. Some killers, in their effort to escape punishment, will arrange to frame innocent people. This works when police investigators do their jobs poorly or even when the fates themselves lend a hand.

      I’d rather see the guilty go executed, than to discover one innocent man had been put to death. Those being the only two choices we really have, anything else is simply fantasy.

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