Jones: Death penalty always cruel

Supporters and opponents of the death penalty agree on one point: It is regrettable when innocent people end up on death row or, even worse, executed.

If through some combination of reforms — who knows what they would look like — we eliminated the risk of executing the innocent, would there be any compelling reason left to oppose capital punishment?

This question, to be sure, is purely hypothetical. The 130 death row exonerees since 1973 plainly show that the risk of executing the innocent remains a real and grave concern. The problems of biased sentencing procedures, poor representation, prosecutorial misconduct and eyewitness coercion have plagued the death penalty throughout its history up to the present day. A foolproof death penalty perhaps appears among Plato’s forms, but not in any actual society, contemporary or historical.

For argument’s sake, put aside the difficulties involved in implementing the death penalty fairly. Let’s assume that the state succeeded in crafting a foolproof system of capital punishment, where only the guilty, the worst of the worst, would be executed. If death penalty proponents had their ideal system, what would it look like? How ideal would it be?

Even in such a system, families would suffer intense and, at times, unnecessary pain. Victims’ families would have to relive the horror of their loved one’s murder every time the media brought the case up again, whether that be at trial, during appeals or at the time of the execution. The increased media attention received by death penalty cases would continue to deprive families of the privacy they often need to work out their grief.

Moreover, a foolproof system would do nothing to ease the pain experienced by families of death row inmates. Murderers and rapists still have families — families who, while condemning criminality and seeing the need for punishment, understandably hope to preserve their loved one’s life. It is heartwrenching for a family to know that they have only a specified amount of time with a son or father or brother before the state intervenes and ends his life.

No family better illustrates the pain inflicted by the death penalty than the Hills from my home state of Ohio. This family has endured a double tragedy, losing loved ones to both murder and death row.

Their nightmare began in March 1991. While struggling with his father’s recent death and high on crack cocaine, Jeffrey Hill snapped and stabbed his mother to death. Since the murder, the family has pleaded with the state not to execute Jeffrey. The state of Ohio, however, is bent on carrying out the execution March 3, regardless of how traumatic it will be for the murder victim’s family.

The trauma caused by the death penalty unfortunately does not end with the families of the victim and the perpetrator. As long as the government demands executions, it must train executioners. Death penalty advocates rarely consider its effects on those who have to subdue the condemned, render them defenseless and then shoot, hang, gas, electrocute or poison them. Not surprisingly, this macabre profession often leaves its practitioners burdened with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Take, for example, Ron McAndrew, whom I met after hearing him speak about his experience as the warden of Florida State Prison. He presided over three executions during his tenure. Each of these executions remains vivid in his mind, none more so than his final one.

On Mar. 25, 1997, McAndrew gave the order to commence the electrocution of Pedro Medina. Shortly after 2,000 volts of electricity began pulsating through Medina’s body, foot-high flames engulfed his head. In the midst of smoke and the wretched odor of burning flesh, McAndrew gave the order to continue the execution. It is a memory that haunts him to this day.

A foolproof system of capital punishment would fail to address the anguish endured by families like the Hills and officials like McAndrew. The inherent flaw of capital punishment is that it perpetuates violence and suffering, creating new victims, rather than solving these societal problems. It is impossible to isolate a criminal and direct the state’s wrath solely on him or her. An execution is always a horrific, traumatic event that sends shock waves through society, in much the same way as does murder or rape or other forms of violence.

We are well past the time for reforms. The longer we tinker with the machinery of death, the more lives — including ones beyond the confines of death row — will end up destroyed by it. In the interest of those impacted by violence, it is time to reject capital punishment in all its forms.

Ben Jones is a second-year graduate student in the Political Science Department.

Comments

  • Yale08

    There are some crimes (rape/murder) that are so heinous that they cry out, begging for justice.

    Sometimes, the only true justice is death.

    You can try to argue your way out of that, but you cannot escape it.

    If you commit murder, you deserve to die.

  • Spherical Cow

    There are some crimes (rape/murder) that are so heinous that no unequal laws we mete and dole can do them justice.

    Death is the savage retribution of a terrified state and a helpless polity.

    No matter how many people you put to death, you cannot escape what has already happened.

    Someone like Warren Kimbro is proof that people can still do good work in society, after having committed an unconscionable crime.

    Would killing Kimbro have made the world a better place?

    Obviously not.

  • A. Nonny Mouse

    Regardless of what one thinks about capital punishment, a meaningful argument as to its putative "cruelty" simply cannot wholly ignore (as this argument ignores) that (1) victims' families usually do NOT oppose the execution of the killer of a family member, (2) a victim's family are NOT the only people agrieved and affected by a murder, and the sensibilities of the broader public count, too (murder is not some kind of private "wrongful death" tort), and (3) capital punishment has now been shown in many studies to effectively deter future murders (some studies have strongly suggested that perhaps 18 murders are prevented for every executed murderer over and above the deterrence provided by life in prison). Is one really willing to sacrifice the lives of 18 victims, or even 1 victim, in favor of the life of a murderer? Establishing such a willingness in most minds requires far more than the arguments set forth in the column, if it can be done at all. Isn't allowing people to die at the hands of future murderers itself "cruel?" There are many other factors that this article completely ignores or grossly distorts.

    It is NOT correct that "no family better illustrates the pain inflicted by the death penalty than the Hills." In fact, the Hills will correctly strike most people as a rather peculiar case, rife with family conflicts-of-interests. Do the Hills really a "better illustrate the pain inflicted by the death penalty" than, say, the family of a 10 year old girl kidnapped, raped and murdered by some stranger as she walks to school on a bright Ohio spring morning? Are you serious? Would you dare make your arguments to the faces of the parents of such a little girl?

  • yale

    @SphericalCow

    It isn't about rehabilitation, or doing greater good- those things are lovely secondary benefits to letting a cold-blooded killer stay alive.

    The death penalty is also not primarily about sending a message to would-be criminals.

    It is about pure justice. The killer owes a debt to the victim and to their families. That debt can only be paid with their own life.

    Now- I do find the anti-state argument valid. I don't want the government to be able to TAX us, let alone DRAFT us into the military, or EXECUTE us.

    Interesting impasse we've reached.

  • Spherical Cow

    yale (#6),

    Would you care to expand on your definition of justice? What do you mean by the word? How is it 'pure'? What about 'eye for an eye' is legitimate, other than that it is biblical?

    And if this debt is owed to 'the victim and their families,' why aren't they the ones carrying out the execution?

  • Adam

    @1: "Sometimes the only true justice is death…If you commit murder, you deserve to die."

    Obviously you are just bowing to tradition. This is not an argument; it is an idea. What you actually want to argue is that the purpose of punishment is retribution. He who kills can only be killed. But retribution will never actually match punishment to the crime. If I split my neighbor's skull with an axe, the laws do not split my skull with an axe: rather, I am put to death by the "humane" method of lethal injection, where I even get a relaxant beforehand so I don't freak out. And if my friend kills 1,000 babies by burning them alive, he gets the same "humane" treatment. Furthermore, if "killers must be killed" then obviously robbers should be robbed, rapists should be raped, etc. This is a crummy argument. Remember also that in the not-so-distant past, the death penalty was administered for robbery (last administered in US in 1964), rape (1964), and kidnapping (1960). Do these also "deserve" the death penalty?

    @3:

    To argument (1): This is irrelevant. We cannot base the laws on the opinions of victims. The purpose of the laws is to protect the state. When punishment is meted out, it is the laws themselves taking retribution, not any particular person.

    To Argument (2): Does something called the "sensibility" of strangers count as a justification to kill someone? Remember that we live in a mass society, and I seriously doubt that the "sensibility" of the public will be improved by executions carried out in secret (as they are basically today). Perhaps to improve public sensibility we should hold every execution in Times Square, and invite everyone and broadcast it on TV so that the public "sensibility" could be satisfied. Which brings me to…

    (3): This is patently false. No study has shown this. The deterrence argument just doesn't work. Personally, I don't murder people I see on the street because maybe I love them, or don't care about them or maybe because, well, it's too much trouble! There is an infinite number of reasons that we do not commit crimes, and fear of punishment is only one (although it may be a strong one). If you are more interested in this topic, I suggest you take a look at the murder rates in Europe since the death penalty has been abolished.

    Finally, to what is perhaps your strongest point: "Is one really willing to sacrifice the lives of 18 victims, or even 1 victim, in favor of the life of a murderer?"

    Yes. Yes one really is, because people are always a surprise and always have the capacity to change. No one is born a murderer. As long as human beings still have free wills, it never makes sense to kill someone in order to deter would-be-murderers. A murderer actually exists. A would-be-murderer does not.

    ---

    If anyone is further interested in the death penalty, I highly suggest they read a short essay by Albert Camus called "Reflections on the Guillotine." It's in an English collection of his essays called "Resistance, Rebellion, and Death." One of the reasons he lists here for doing away with the death penalty is that we may kill innocent people (as the author of this column mentioned). One may argue, Camus says, that that's a really rare exception, but his response: "Aren't our lives exceptional?"

  • Anonymous

    e,

    Please fact check, next time.

    Re: fact checking issues, on innocence and the death penalty.

    It is very important to take note that the 130 exonerated from death row is a blatant scam, easily uncovered by fact checking.

    The Death Penalty Information Center has been responsible for some of the most serious deceptions by the anti death penalty side, includsive of this 130 exonerated and innocence scam.

    Dieter and DPIC have produced the claims regarding the exonerated and innocents released from death row list. The scam is that DPIC just decided to redefine what exonerated and innocence mean according to their own perverse definitions.

    Richard Dieter, head of the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC): defining what "exonerated" or "innocent" means.

    ". . . (DPIC) makes no distinction between legal and factual innocence. " 'They're innocent in the eyes of the law,' Dieter says. 'That's the only objective standard we have.' "

    That is untrue, of course. We are all aware of the differences between legal guilt and actual guilt and legal innocence (not guilty) and actual innocence, just as the courts are.

    Furthermore, there is no finding of actual innocence, but it is "not guilty". Dieter knows that we are all speaking of actual innocence, those cases that have no connection to the murder(s). He takes advantage of that by redefining exonerated and innocence.

    Dieter "clarifies" the three ways that former death row inmates get onto their "exonerated" by "innocence" list.

    "A defendant whose conviction is overturned by a judge must be further exonerated in one of three ways: he must be acquitted at a new trial, or the prosecutor must drop the charges against him, or a governor must grant an absolute pardon."

    None establishes actual innocence.

    DPIC has " . . . included supposedly innocent defendants who were still culpable as accomplices to the actual triggerman."

    DPIC: "There may be guilty persons among the innocents, but that includes all of us."

    Good grief. DPIC wishes to apply collective guilt of capital murder to all of us.

    Dieter states: "I don't think anybody can know about a person's absolute innocence." (Green). Dieter said he could not pinpoint how many are "actually innocent" -- only the defendants themselves truly know that, he said." (Erickson)

    Or Dieter won't assert actual innocence in 1, 102 or 350 cases. He doesn't want to clarify a real number with proof of actual innocence, that would blow his entire deception.

    Or, Dieter declare all innocent: "If you are not proven guilty in a court of law, you're innocent." (Green)

    Dieter would call Hitler and Stalin innocent. Those are his "standards".

    And that is the credibility of the DPIC.

    For fact checking.

    1. "Case Histories: A Review of 24 Individuals Released from Death Row", Florida Commission on Capital Cases, 6/20/02, Revised 9/10/02 at http://www.floridacapitalcases.state.fl.us/Publications/innocentsproject.pdf

    83% error rate in "innocent" claims.

    2. "Is 'the innocence list' an appropriate name?", 1/19/03
    FRANK GREEN, TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
    http://www.stopcapitalpunishment.org/coverage/106.html

    Dieter admits they don't discern between legal innocence and actual innocence. One of Dieter's funnier quotes;"The prosecutor, perhaps, or Dudley Sharp, perhaps, thinks they're still guilty because there was evidence of their guilt, but that's a subjective judgment." Yep, "EVIDENCE OF GUILT", can't you see why Dieter would think they were innocent? And that's how the DPIC works.

    3. 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

    "To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row . . . ".

    That is out of the DPIC claimed 119 "exonerated", at that time, for a 75% error rate.

    NOTE: It's hard to understand how an absolute can have a differential of 33%. I suggest the "to be sure" is, now, closer to 25.

    4. CRITIQUE OF DPIC LIST ("INNOCENCE:FREED FROM DEATH ROW"), Ward Campbell, http://www.prodeathpenalty.com/DPIC.htm

    5. "The Death Penalty Debate in Illinois", JJKinsella,6/2000, http://www.dcba.org/brief/junissue/2000/art010600.htm

    6.THE DEATH PENALTY - ALL INNOCENCE ISSUES, Dudley Sharp
    http://homicidesurvivors.com/2006/03/20/all-innocence-issues--the-death-penalty.aspx

    Origins of "innocence" fraud, and review of many innocence issues

    7. "Bad List", Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review, 9/16/02
    http://www.nationalreview.com/advance/advance091602.asp#title5

    How bad is DPIC?

    8. "Not so Innocent", By Ramesh Ponnuru,National Review, 10/1/02
    http://www.nationalreview.com/ponnuru/ponnuru100102.asp

    DPIC from bad to worse.

    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.

  • Yale '08

    i think the article is flawed because it doesn't take into consideration that current students are pressured into pursuing majors for the wrong (or, rather, anti-liberal arts) reasons. in my opinion, a kid (perhaps pressured by the career-oriented environment) is actually more "pressured" in the status quo. with the addition of a minor, that kid could actually free up at least six credits by minoring in what he originally majored in.

    also, the article fails to mention that harvard, the cited "founder" of the concentration system, recently introduced minors. doesn't that tell us something?

  • yale #6`

    Spherical Cow,

    I agree- having the state perform executions in the course of justice is a massive problem.

    Interesting point.

    But do you also have a problem with the state stealing from you and enslaving you? (sales/property/income taxes)

  • Spherical Cow

    Do I have a problem with living in a society? No.

    It might be an interesting thought experiment if every society started with an actual 'social compact,' but that would involve starting society from scratch every time someone new was born, so … no. Taxes are the means by which society functions on a large scale, by which the state protects its polity. Extreme libertarianism is a fanciful dream not based in reality of any significant number of people interacting with each other. Why can't we just have a market? Because markets and guns don't interact particularly well, and thus we give a monopoly on force so that we can exist relatively peacefully. That said, I don't particularly think the state as it exists is peaceable, but that is a social justice issue, not an intellectual quibble with the legitimacy of a state per se.

    However, given that the state has a monopoly on legitimate force, I expect and demand that it only excercise the force which is 'absolutely' necessary. Since incarceration is always a possibility, the death penalty never is.

  • Hiero II

    Post a balanced summary of the case, Ben.

    Jeffrey Hill stabbed his mother ten times in the front and back and then stole $20. He returned later to the scene of the crime to take an additional $80.

    It wasn't just a spur-of-the-moment killing.

  • A. Nonny Mouse

    #6 (Adam),

    You assert there are no studies supporting the effectiveness of capital punishment as deterrence to murder. I will note just a sample of studies that do just that. A “significant body of recent evidence that capital punishment may well have a deterrent effect, possibly a quitepowerful one.” Sunstein & Vermeule, Is Capital Punishment Morally Required? Acts, Omissions, and Life-LifeTradeoffs, 58 Stan. L. Rev. 703, 706 (2006); see also id., at 706, n. 9 (listing the approximately half a dozen studies supporting this conclusion). According to a “leading national study,” “each execution prevents some eighteen murders, on average.” Id., at 706. “If the current evidence is even roughly correct . . . then a refusal to impose capitalpunishment will effectively condemn numerous innocent people to death.” Ibid.

    Please note that the claim here is not that the effectiveness of capital punishment has been "established." Almost nothing in social causation can be "established." But there is considerable research supporting the effectiveness of capital punishment as a deterrent.

    The sensibilities of a majority "strangers" are always very important in establishing the laws and mores of a democracy. What is "cruel" is largely a function of prevailing sentiment.

    Similarly, the pain a murderer inflicts on those close to the victim matters quite a lot in determining the proper punishment - the pain a crime causes is part of the damage it does to society. Of course, the author of this column not only ignores that family-and-friends pain, but also ignores even the pain and damage done to the victim!

    I could write a good deal more, but I think I'll stop right there.

  • Anonymous

    The death penalty helps to reduce trauma and violence. Therefore, you should be calling for more executions.

    The Death Penalty Provides 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.
     
    To state the blatantly clear, living murderers, in prison, after release or escape,  are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers.
     
    Although an obvious truism, it is surprising how often  folks overlook the enhanced incapacitation benefits of the death penalty over incarceration.
     
    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.
     
    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 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.
     
    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 . . . (1) 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, reasonably, 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) 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
     
    copyright 2007-2009, Dudley Sharp
    Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.
     
    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 
     
    http://homicidesurvivors.com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx
     
    http://www.dpinfo.comwww.cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
    http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
    http://www.coastda.com/archives.html
    http://www.lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
    http://www.prodeathpenalty.com
    http://yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2   (Sweden) http://www.wesleylowe.com/cp.html

  • Anonymous

    An exchange betwee Dudley Sharp and Ben Jones. I got Ben's OK for this. But I expect you to confirm that, first.

    I reply as "Sharp REPLY" within your post and put Jones in front of yours, so there is no confusion. Dudley Sharp

    Ben:

    Sharp REPLY: It appears we are speaking past one another and I suspect that we are both being sincere and trying to get our points across. Sometimes, I am too focused.

    Sharp REPLY: I'll try again. bear with me. Please. I address all of your comments.

    Sharp REPLY: My first point. The 130 number has nothing to do with actual innocence and never has. I think the first DPIC report came out with 68 exonerated because of innocence. Since 68 and through 130, media and many others have just repeated the number as if it were true, and has reported it worldwide, with no fact checking. This has led to a gross deception being accepted as a fact, worldwide. Legislators use it as well. I debate and follow this topic, worldwide.

    Sharp REPLY: To my knowledge, I was the first person to expose this, publicly, in an op/ed in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram in 1997.

    Sharp REPLY: The DPIC reports on the innocent exonerated are, by far, the most used and quoted reference in the world on this topic. Nothing is even a remote second place. So in regard to public policy, it is huge.

    Sharp REPLY: If truth and accuracy matter, this is a very big problem and they matter.

    Sharp REPLY: I wasn't trying to avoid your points. I thought this was more important than any of your points, but was also related to all your points.

    Ben, all of your comments are , now, addressed, below.

    In a message dated 2/7/2009 7:10:48 A.M. Central Standard Time, benjamin.jones@yale.edu writes:

    Dear Mr. Sharp,

    Jones: Thank you for reading my article and responding to it. I have heard the arguments you brought up before. I should say that the one line that concerns you in my article--"The 130 death row exonerees since 1973 plainly show that the risk of executing the innocent remains a real and grave concern"--does not state that all the exonerees are factually innocent.

    Sharp REPLY: I know that. but that is the intent of the deception , which has been very successful, because of the almost complete lack of fact checking.

    Jones: My claim is much more modest: the risk of executing the innocent is still real. As long as some are factually innocent--that number may be 30 or 90 or 130--then innocent individuals are coming dangerously close to being executed.

    Sharp REPLY: I am not sure how true that is. In many of the cases, I read, they were two hours from execution, etc. What many people don't realize, is that same appeal could have been made months or years, before. Furthermore, there are often, multiple, appeals which follow, which cause more delay. meaning, all of those could have been made earlier, as well. It can and should be seen as it often is, an appellate game to wait until the last moment. The longer you wait, every time, to make an appeal, the longer your client stays alive, when stayed for further review. That is the specific intent.

    Jones: (You must grant the point that at least dozens of the exonerees are factually innocent, given the DNA evidence in their cases.) Since I don't see the death penalty as serving any public policy goals, I don't see the point of taking this risk.

    Sharp REPLY: 9 death row inmates have been released from death row, because of DNA exclusion. An additional 6-8, who were once on death row, but who had long since been removed from dr, were excluded by DNA ,while in prison.

    Jones: Another point you fail to mention in your email is that the 130 does not include factually innocent people who were never exonerated.

    Sharp REPLY: I do mention that in one of my essays. However, I am not dealing with speculation, I am dealing with the 130 exonerated innocents fraud, specifically. That is my focus, because it is a worldwide problem. Many, many actual innocents have been murdered by those who have murdered before. I could make a good case that the number of such innocents in double what we can prove. As I say, actual innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.

    Jones: There are a number of cases where it is quite possible that the state executed an innocent individual (e.g., Cameron Willingham), or released innocent individuals who were never exonerated (e.g., Kerry Max Cook). When you take into account these cases, the 130 number may not be inflated at all.

    Sharp REPLY: Possible, yes. I think the case for Cook's guilt is pretty solid, based upon the complete record. Willingham I have real concerns about and I have stated such. As you may know, there is much in the record that points to his guilt, absent the forensics.

    Jones: I doubt I've changed your mind.

    Sharp REPLY: Like I said, it isn't about changing minds, it's about the truth. And the 130 exonerated innocents is about as far from that as you can get.

    Best dudley

    All the best,
    Ben

    -------------------------

    Dear Mr. Sharp,

    Jones: Before posting that recent email you sent, I have some further objections to add:

    Jones: Your claim: the DPIC number 130 is deceptive and should be ignored

    Jones: For argument's sake, say some of the 130 exonerees are factually guilty. It is still important to point out that our justice system, in theory, is set up so that we only punish those for whom there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt of their guilt. The 130 number shows that a significant number of people are coming close to being executed . Most Americans, I think, would be quite uncomfortable with that.

    Sharp REPLY: I never said it should be ignored. Quite the opposite. It should be exposed. It appears that about 25 may be actually innocent. All were released. The death penalty may be the most accurate criminal justice sanction in the world. Yes, the 130 number makes people uncomfortable. That is the purpose of the deception. That is why it is so inflated.

    Jones: Your claim: the death penalty is a more effective deterrent than LWOP, and thus it saves innocent lives If this is the basis for your support of the death penalty, you're on shaky ground. (I'm reminded of the Gospel metaphor of a house built upon the sand.)

    Sharp REPLY: You, wrongly, presume. I support the death penalty because I find it a just and appropriate sanction for some crimes, the same basis of support for all sanctions. I consider it immoral to support any sanction based upon saving innocent lives, alone. I never say the death penalty is MORE of a deterrent than LWOP. I say it is an enhanced deterrent. Very different. All sanctions deter. The death penalty deters some that are not deterred by LWOP.

    Jones: First, I've taken way too many econometric classes to buy your defense of the studies that claim to find a deterrence effect larger than that of LWOP.

    Sharp REPLY: The authors have put up a very vigorous defense and a scathing rebuke of the criticisms. Where do you see my defense of the studies? I let the authors do that. I defend deterrence.

    Jones: You say that we can discount the follow-up studies that negate these findings, because "studies which don't find for deterrence don't say no one is deterred, but they couldn't measure those deterred." That's just an intellectually dishonest thing to say.

    Sharp REPLY: No, it is the intellectually honest thing to say. Don't put words in my mouth, please. I didn't say to discount anything. Read and asses. Then decide. Most, if not all, economists pay close attention to what incentives are and their effect on folks. It is not an exaggeration to state they all economists (whom I am aware of) believe incentives have an effect on folks. I have yet to hear an economist say that negative incentives don't deter the behavior of some. I have read much material on deterrence for a very long time and have not found an exception to that, yet. All incentives, negative or positive, have an effect on some, even if a certain study hasn't measured it. All the economists admit some weakness in their studies, as is required in all soft sciences. That is not in dispute.

    Jones: If you run a regression testing the deterrence effect of the death penalty, but omit a variable that has a causal effect on murder rates--which is what many of the follow-up studies point out--your results can be greatly off, even showing an effect in the opposite direction than the true. (A simple example illustrating this point is that if you regress murder rates on ice cream sales alone, you can "show" that higher ice cream sales lead to higher murder rates. Of course that's absurd, and the result of a misspecification--namely, a failure to take into account seasonal effects on crime rates.) Thus when you correct a regression analysis by adding a variable or correcting some measurement error, and the effect goes away or is no longer statistically significant, that shows that the first regression model is misspecified, meaning that it's necessary to reject it. What is clear is that a lot of factors affect murder rates, and no honest econometrician would claim that we've been able to pinpoint the death penalty's deterrence effects. The models we have are far from robust enough to make such a conclusion. To give the impression that the 16 studies you cite is evidence of a growing consensus of a deterrence effect is just dead wrong--that is much more misleading, in my opinion, than the 130 number used by the DPIC.

    Sharp REPLY: Again, we disagree, The 130 is just what it is, an intended and successful deception. Blatant and obvious. The 16 studies are in no way an intended deception. It is the authors of those deterrence studies which say it is a growing concensus. It certainly appears to be. My position is based upon the following - all prospects of a negative outcome deter some. Therefore, for me, the findings of the 16 studies supports that truism. Hardly surprising.

    Jones: Second, your argument that the death penalty is a foolproof way to prevent recidivism--someone dead can't murder again--is true, but it has some unsavory consequences. Recidivism rates among murderers is not as high as among other types of criminals. Does that mean we should execute those for crimes less than murder, such as robbery? This after all would protect more innocent lives, probably more than the current death penalty system. Again, I feel most Americans would be quite uneasy with this system.

    Sharp REPLY: No, it means the death penalty is an enhanced incapacitator and thus, in that property, saves more net innocent lives. The known numbers of innocents murdered by those who had murdered before, it quite large. The number of proven innocents executed is ???

    Jones: Third, for your argument in favor of the death penalty to hold up, the death penalty must not just deter murder and save innocent lives, but it must do so better than any alternative. That is a difficult claim to maintain.

    Sharp REPLY: Not at all. Both deter. So use both. No, the death penalty doesn't have to deter better. The death penalty must be just, only. If it also saves additional lives, that it a very important, added benefit. In three ways, the death penalty also saves more net lives - Enhanced deterrence, enhanced incapacitation and enhanced due process. In addition, the anecdotal evidence of the death penalty being an additional, enhanced deterrent is very robust. Cases of individual deterrence are fairly well documented and individual deterrence cannot exit without the presence of general deterrence. Therefore, general deterrence exits.

    JONES: The death penalty is more expensive than LWOP. EVERY cost study has come to this conclusion.

    Sharp REPLY: No they do not. You must fact check them.

    JONES: If we got rid of the death penalty, we could put more police officers on the street, which police officers consistently say is more important to fighting crime than the death penalty.

    Sharp REPLY: If we got rid of "very, very longggggg list" then we would have lots of extra money for a lot of extra things. Less justice, however, is not what we need.

    Jones: Fourth, just because convicts prefer sentences other than the DP at the trial stage does not mean they were thinking about consequences at the time of the crime and could have been deterred by them. If they were thinking, they wouldn't have murdered someone in the first place!

    Sharp REPLY: To put it another way, if 99 out of a hundred capital murderers chose to ask for the death penalty, instead of seeking a life sentence, I would be honest enough to say the death penalty certainly is no deterrent. The reality is quite the opposite, of course. My point was, by about 99 to 1, murderers prefer life over death. It is no stretch of reason to find that a more thinking group, those potential murderers, who choose not to murder, may also, by a very wide margin, fear death more than life. I thought that was the obvious point. It is another building block for deterrence. A lot of murderers think and think quite a lot. The evidence of that is not in question. On this point, as I like to say, you are dead wrong.

    Jones: It's been nice debating you about the death penalty. I have a feeling, though, that we've both been citing facts that support much deeper beliefs that are the true motivations behind why the two of us to dedicate so much time to this issue. What motivates you?

    Sharp REPLY: Many things motivate me. Except for true pacifism, which I find immoral, I find all arguments against the death penalty to be either false or that, on any given subtopic, the pro death penalty position is stronger. However, my basis of support for the death penalty is that I find it just and appropriate for some crimes.

    Sincerely, Dudley Sharp

    All the best,
    Ben

    --- On Sat, 2/7/09, Sharpjfa@aol.com <Sharpjfa@aol.com> wrote:

    From: Sharpjfa@aol.com <Sharpjfa@aol.com>
    Subject: The Death Penalty Provides More Protection for Innocents
    To: benjamin.jones@yale.edu
    Date: Saturday, February 7, 2009, 4:11 PM

    The Death Penalty Provides 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.

    To state the blatantly clear, living murderers, in prison, after release or escape, are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers.

    Although an obvious truism, it is surprising how often folks overlook the enhanced incapacitation benefits of the death penalty over incarceration.

    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.

    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 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.

    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 . . . (1) 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, reasonably, 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) 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

    copyright 2007-2009, Dudley Sharp
    Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part, is approved with proper attribution.

    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

    http://homicidesurvivors.com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx

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