<quote>The globe makes a case for the death penalty as for some crimes there is no retribution short of the noose or the chair , and goes on to say that only by executing brutal murderers can society proclaim unambiguously it's abhorrence for their crimes ! Sentencing such people to a mere prison term declares in effect that what they did wasn't so bad thereby assuring repeat performances in more heinous forms ! </quote> (Van Canna)
Well I can no longer resist - in the face of some of the posts on this thread - I wish to interject a few more facts to an already illumined discussion. Specifically I wish to address the capital punishment issue - there are volumes of statistics available that I could quote here - but I will try to limit it to a few major points. I realize this is a potential "can of worms" yet feel that some of the facts are germaine to the discussion. These facts that I will list below are not indicative of my own personal beliefs - they are presented only as topics for consideration.
1) Studies have shown that a capital sentence, and the actual carrying out of the execution, is strongly influenced by race. "A black man who kills a white person is 11 times more likely to receive the death penalty than a white man who kills a black person. And blacks who kill blacks have even less to worry about. "It's almost like we kind of say, "Oh, well, he needed killing anyhow." (Don Cabana) These statistics are available in a number of resources - here's one: <url>http://www.aclu.org/news/n060498e.html</url>
2) There are innocent people placed on death row. "The danger that innocent people will be executed because of errors in the criminal justice system is getting worse. A total of 69 people have been released from death row since 1973 after evidence of their innocence emerged. Twenty-one condemned inmates have been released since 1993, including seven from the state of Illinois alone. Many of these cases were discovered not because of the normal appeals process, but rather as a result of new scientific techniques, investigations by journalists, and the dedicated work of expert attorneys, not available to the typical death row inmate." For more on this see <url>http://www.essential.org/dpic/inn.html</url>
3) Politics and elections play a large part in capital punishement laws. "If a judge's ruling for the defendant . . . may determine his fate at the next election, even though his ruling was affirmed and is unquestionably right, constitutional protections would be subject to serious erosion." (Justice Byron White)
"Persons who undertake the task of administering justice impartially should not be required--indeed, they should not be permitted--to finance campaigns or to curry the favor of voters by making predictions or promises about how they will decide cases before they have heard any evidence or argument. A campaign promise to "be tough on crime," or to "enforce the death penalty," is evidence of bias that should disqualify a candidate from sitting in criminal cases. (Justice John Paul Stevens, 1996)
Ok - granted - those are opinions - for facts check out <url>http://www.essential.org/dpic/dpicrkfv.html#politics</url>
4) Ability to afford a better legal defense can almost eliminate the death penalty option. Look at OJ! Consider..."When we execute a capital defendant in this country, we rely on the belief that the individual was guilty, and was convicted and sentenced after a fair trial, to justify the imposition of state-sponsored killing. . . . My 24 years of overseeing the imposition of the death penalty from this Court have left me in grave doubt whether this reliance is justified and whether the constitutional requirement of competent counsel for capital defendants is being fulfilled. (Justice Harry A. Blackmun)
NOTE: "Former death row inmates such as Andrew Golden, Federico Macias, and Gary Nelson, received poor representation at trial and could have been executed, despite their innocence. In their cases, competent counsel later stepped in and were able to reverse the worst damage, sometimes after a decade of legal challenges. Others with equally inadequate counsel already have been executed or remain on death row. Far too often, people are given the death penalty not for committing the worst crimes, but for having the worst lawyers. This problem has been ignored for years as politicians use the death penalty as a stepping stone to electoral success. Instead of establishing an independent body to assure that everyone facing a death sentence is adequately represented, legislatures are concentrating on ways to shorten appeals, expand the death penalty, and limit access to the group of attorneys best qualified to represent them.
5) The cost of carrying out capital punishment is much higher than the life in prison alternative. "Across the country, police are being laid off, prisoners are being released early, the courts are clogged, and crime continues to rise. The economic recession has caused cutbacks in the backbone of the criminal justice system. In Florida, the budget crisis resulted in the early release of 3,000 prisoners. In Texas, prisoners are serving only 20% of their time and rearrests are common. Georgia is laying off 900 correctional personnel and New Jersey has had to dismiss 500 police officers. Yet these same states, and many others like them, are pouring millions of dollars into the death penalty with no resultant reduction in crime.
The exorbitant costs of capital punishment are actually making America less safe because badly needed financial and legal resources are being diverted from effective crime fighting strategies. Before the Los Angeles riots, for example, California had little money for innovations like community policing, but was managing to spend an extra $90 million per year on capital punishment. Texas, with over 300 people on death row, is spending an estimated $2.3 million per case, but its murder rate remains one of the highest in the country.
The death penalty is escaping the decisive cost-benefit analysis to which every other program is being put in times of austerity. Rather than being posed as a single, but costly, alternative in a spectrum of approaches to crime, the death penalty operates at the extremes of political rhetoric. Candidates use the death penalty as a facile solution to crime which allows them to distinguish themselves by the toughness of their position rather than its effectiveness.
The death penalty is much more expensive than its closest alternative--life imprisonment with no parole. Capital trials are longer and more expensive at every step than other murder trials. Pre-trial motions, expert witness investigations, jury selection, and the necessity for two trials--one on guilt and one on sentencing--make capital cases extremely costly, even before the appeals process begins. Guilty pleas are almost unheard of when the punishment is death. In addition, many of these trials result in a life sentence rather than the death penalty, so the state pays the cost of life imprisonment on top of the expensive trial."
The whole article is at <url>http://www.essential.org/dpic/dpic.r08.html</url>
Ok, I know this is getting pretty long - just one more point - and this one will bring a lot of argument I'm sure.
And now as for capital punishment being a deterrent...
<quote>The recitivists(again, I voice my suspicions only) would be underworld types, sadists and other people who practice evil for personal gain or gratification. I agree that they should be executed. They are self-interested enough that they may be deterred from a crime by the prospect of dying for it. And if they are not deterred, then when we execute them we have resolved a future enforcement problem and saved some lives.</quote> (Hutch)
6) The death penalty is NOT an effective deterrent against crime! Many law enforcement officials agree on this point! Consider the following quotes:
"The death penalty does little to prevent crime. It's the fear of apprehension and the likely prospect of swift and certain punishment that provides the largest deterrent to crime." (Frank Friel, Former Head of Organized Crime Homicide Task Force, Philadelphia)
"Take it from someone who has spent a career in Federal and state law enforcement, enacting the death penalty . . . would be a grave mistake. Prosecutors must reveal the dirty little secret they too often share only among themselves: The death penalty actually hinders the fight against crime." (Robert M. Morgenthau, District Attorney, Manhattan, NY)
"I am not convinced that capital punishment, in and of itself, is a deterrent to crime because most people do not think about the death penalty before they commit a violent or capital crime." (Willie L. Williams, Police Chief, Los Angeles, CA)
"In January, 1995, Peter D. Hart Research Associates conducted a national opinion poll of randomly selected police chiefs in the United States. In that poll, the chiefs had the opportunity to express what they believe really works in fighting crime. They were asked where the death penalty fit in their priorities as leaders in the law enforcement field. What the police chiefs had to say may be surprising to many lawmakers, and to much of the public as well. The Hart Poll found that:
Police chiefs rank the death penalty last as a way of reducing violent crime, placing it behind curbing drug abuse, more police officers on the streets, lowering the technical barriers to prosecution, longer sentences, and a better economy with more jobs.
The death penalty was rated as the least cost-effective method for controlling crime.
Insufficient use of the death penalty is not considered a major problem by the majority of police chiefs.
Strengthening families and neighborhoods, punishing criminals swiftly and surely, controlling illegal drugs, and gun control are considered much more important than the death penalty.
Although a majority of the police chiefs support the death penalty in the abstract, when given a choice between the sentence of life without parole plus restitution versus the death penalty, barely half of the chiefs support capital punishment .
Police chiefs do not believe that the death penalty significantly reduces the number of homicides.
Police chiefs do not believe that murderers think about the range of possible punishments.
Debates about the death penalty distract Congress and state legislatures from focusing on real solutions to crime .
In sum, while many police chiefs support the death penalty philosophically, a strong majority do not believe that it is an effective law enforcement tool in practice. In the report below, the various findings of this poll will be explored in depth, along with a broader analysis of what really works in reducing crime. The results of this opinion poll are confirmed by the statements of individual leaders in the law enforcement community, by research in the field of criminology, a nd by the recommendations of many of the nation's leading law enforcement agencies. "
If you made it to the end of this post you are either ready to debate this or have nothing better to do! Remember, much of the above does not constitute the personal opinions of the author - just observations - so be gentle in your counter attack!
[This message has been edited by Lori (edited 10-19-98).]