death penalty dialogue
Dudley Sharp


#1 Apr 7, 2008
To begin the dialogue.
The Death Penalty in the US: A Review

Innocence Issues

Death Penalty opponents have proclaimed that 127 inmates have been "released from death row with evidence of their innocence", in the US, since the modern death penalty era began, post Furman v Georgia (1972).

That number is a fraud.

They included both the factually innocent (the "I truly had nothing to do with the murder" cases) and the legally innocent (the "I got off because of legal errors" cases), thereby fraudulently raising the "innocent" numbers.

Death penalty opponents claim that 24 such innocence cases are in Florida. The Florida Commission on Capital Cases found that 4 of those 24 MIGHT be innocent -- an 83% error rate in for the claims of death penalty opponents. Other studies show their error rate to be about 70%.

Therefore, 20-25 of the alleged 127 innocents MIGHT be actually innocent -- a 0.3% actual guilt error rate for the over 8000 sentenced to death since 1973. The actual innocents were all freed,

Under real world scenarios, not executing murderers will always put many more innocents at risk, than will ever be put at risk of execution.

Deterrence Issues

16 recent US studies, inclusive of their defenses, find a deterrent effect of the death penalty.

All the studies which have not found a deterrent effect of the death penalty have refused to say that it does not deter some. The studies finding for deterrence state such. Confusion arises when people think that a simple comparison of murder rates and executions, or the lack thereof, can tell the tale of deterrence. It cannot.

Both high and low murder rates are found within death penalty and non death penalty jurisdictions, be it Singapore, South Africa, Sweden or Japan, or the US states of Michigan and Delaware. Many factors are involved in such evaluations. Reason and common sense tell us that it would be remarkable to find that the most severe criminal sanction -- execution -- deterred none. No one is foolish enough to suggest that the potential for negative consequences does not deter the behavior of some. Therefore, regardless of jurisdiction, having the death penalty will always be an added deterrent to murders, over and above any lesser punishments.

Racial issues

White murderers are twice as likely to be executed in the US as are black murderers and are executed, on average, 12 months more quickly than are black death row inmates.

It is often stated that it is the race of the victim which decides who is prosecuted in death penalty cases. Although blacks and whites make up about an equal number of murder victims, capital cases are 6 times more likely to involve white victim murders than black victim murders. This, so the logic goes, is proof that the US only cares about white victims.

Hardly. Only capital murders, not all murders, are subject to a capital indictment. Generally, a capital murder is limited to murders plus secondary aggravating factors, such as murders involving burglary, carjacking, rape, and additional murders, such as police murders, serial and multiple murders. White victims are, overwhelmingly, the victims under those circumstances, in ratios nearly identical to the cases found on death row.

Any other racial combinations of defendants and/or their victims in death penalty cases, is a reflection of the crimes committed and not any racial bias within the system, as confirmed by studies from the Rand Corporation (1991), Smith College (1994), U of Maryland (2002), New Jersey Supreme Court (2003) and by a view of criminal justice statistics, within a framework of the secondary aggravating factors necessary for capital indictments.

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