Barrett Lain: The new case against the death penalty
Corinna Barrett Lain, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, is a former prosecutor.
Join the discussion below, or Read more at North Jersey Media Group.
#1 Jun 13, 2009
Ms.Lain is dead wrong within her op/ed "The new case against the death penalty" (Corinna Barrett Lain, CSM, May 11, 2009)
The cost of the death penalty played no role in either the New Jersey or New Mexico repeal.
In New Jersey, the cost Ms. Lain used was calculated by an anti death penalty group and the NJ death penalty commission concluded they couldn't confirm cost differentials between the death penalty and a life sentence.(1)
In New Mexico, the Legislative Finance Committee used a North Carolina study, which they misinterpreted. It really found that the death penalty was less expensive than a true life sentence. Of course, a North Carolina study has no relevance in New Mexico. The legislature was made aware of those facts prior to voting for repeal.(2)
A review of the entire repeal process showed that both repeals occurred only because a majority of anti death penalty legislators wanted to end the death penalty. This was clear in New Jersey, where the adamantly anti death penalty Governor, Corzine, stacked a death penalty commission with 14 people, only one of whom was confirm ably pro death penalty. Predictably, the final vote on the commission was 13-1, for repeal.(1)
From The (Santa Fe) New Mexican newspaper: "Friday's decisive state Senate vote to repeal the death penalty in New Mexico was a direct result of November's election of several new lawmakers." The repeal bill's sponsor, Rep. Gail Chase said she was able to get the bill through because the 2008 election added three more senators to the Democratic majority" "District Attorney Lem Martinez, who spoken against the repeal bill, said "the Senate vote was the result of Obama's coattails." ("Senate backs death-penalty repeal", Steve Terrell, 3/13/09)
Ms. Lain blindly accepted the ACLU's California death penalty cost evaluations, which no objective party would do. California refused to fund a full review of costs.
Ms. Lain, again, blindly, states: "the last major study on death penalty appeals found that two of every three death sentences were reversed for serious error, with prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel topping the list."
Ms. Lain's assessment is based on an inaccurate, misleading study (3) and, again, shows a lack of fact checking.
The rate of overturning death penalty cases because of error is 20%-25%(4), not 67%. 35% of all death penalty cases are overturned because of problems with the legal statute, the conviction or the sentencing. In 512 cases, or 6.7%, they overturned because of the legal statute, not because of case error, serious or otherwise, in the conviction or sentencing phase. Meaning that the "error rate", because of trial error is 28%. However, it is even lower than 28%, because a number of cases are overturned because of new law, law not in effect at the time of trial. Therefore, when looking at true error, in overturning of death penalty cases, we are looking at 20%-25%, not the absurd 67%.
#2 Jun 13, 2009
Ms. Lain cited the 130 exonerated from death row, Again, she didn't fact check. These "exoneration" numbers are based on the deceptive claims of an anti death penalty group,
The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), that redefined "exonerated" and "innocent" and shoehorned a bunch of cases into their perverse definitions.
Depending upon reviews, by the New York Times, a federal judge and many others, there is a 60-83% error rate in those 130 "exonerated" claims. I conclude that around 25 actual innocents have been identified and released from death row in the modern era (5), or about 0.3% of the 8000 so sentenced.
Ms Lain, yes, there are many studies which allegedly show racial discrimination in the imposition of the death penalty, but you avoided all of those that say there is none (6). Not surprising, based upon you record of other claims within your op/ed.
No, Ms. Lain, money is not the new morality in the death penalty debate. It is but the latest issue, misused by anti death penalty folks, and parroted by others, like you, who either don't fact check or hope to push the deceptive anti death penalty agenda forward.
Maybe the new morality should involve fact checking.
1) See my 4 responses, a thorough review and rebuke of the NJ repeal, after the article by anti death penalty New Jersey Assembly Speaker Roberts.
Third response is "Based Upon Budget Report, LWOP may increase costs in New Jersey"
2) a) "Rebuttal to Governor Richardson - Repeal of the Death Penalty in New Mexico"
b) "Why did Gov. Richardson repeal the death penalty? His legacy"
3) read all the links at
4) Capital Punishment, 2005, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Appendix table 2, page 13, 1973-2005, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/cp05.pdf
5) "The death row 130 "innocence" scam,
6) RACE: A Death Penalty Primer - No bias in death penalty sentencing
#3 Jun 13, 2009
Prof Lain needs to give herself an "F" for research. As Mr Sharp noted there are enough holes in her article to drive a very large truck through.
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