May 7, 2008
Bronx cheer for return of executions
As noted here, last night the state of Georgia brought the death penalty back to life in the US by carrying out the first post-Baze execution. The New York Times celebrated the news with this article, tellingly headlined "As Executions Resume, So Do Questions of Fairness," and this editorial entitled "The Death Penalty Returns." Here are snippets from the editorial:
Roughly 15 death row prisoners are scheduled to be put to death between now and October, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. This flood of executions is the result of the Supreme Court’s ruling that upheld the constitutionality of a troubling form of lethal injection. The next few months, as states put their machinery of death into overdrive, are an ideal time for the nation to rethink its commitment to capital punishment....
These scheduled executions come at a time when many Americans are, rightly, turning away from capital punishment. We believe that the taking of a life by the state is in all cases wrong, but it is particularly so with the deeply flawed system that exists today. Many defendants lack adequate legal representation at their trials, race distorts who is sentenced to death for what crimes and juries are “death qualified” — jurors with moral objections to the death penalty are removed. As the recent rash of DNA exonerations has shown, judges and juries too often sentence innocent people to death.
May 7, 2008 at 09:14 PM | Permalink
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It's hard to take the NY Times editorial board seriously--the rash of DNA exonerations from death row is 4 in the past five years. That hardly qualifies as a rash of DNA exonerations. (Note: I understand that the editorial board didn't say DNA exonerations from death row, but remember that the only DNA exonerations that show that "judges and juries too often sentence innocent people to death" are death row exonerations.)
Posted by: federalist | May 7, 2008 9:49:04 PM
Four in five years sounds like a rash to me. But then, unlike you, I actually care when the government kills innocent Americans. So it's not surprising we'd see things differently.
Posted by: DK | May 7, 2008 11:22:47 PM
That's really interesting. I had no idea that the NYTimes was against the death penalty.
Posted by: | May 8, 2008 12:03:15 AM
Of greater significance is that in that 5 year period, 27 people have been exonerated for all reasons - serving an average of 15 years on death row, the longest 30 years.
A healthy system delivering Justice? - I don't think so.
Posted by: peter | May 8, 2008 1:43:03 AM
Hurray for the return of the death penalty. Though Professor Berman, and others here, are biased against the death penalty (the headline "Bronx Cheer for the Return of executions" says where Berman leans), I am for it and welcome its return. I have had two loved ones murdered (my Father and my Brother), and have lived through countless parole hearings and other court hearings. I have had to listen to a murderer lie for 15 years until finally admitting that he killed my brother so that he could be let out on parole. I now walk through my city with the knowledge that this person killed my 23 year old brother while my brother doesn't have that right.
The death penalty has its problems, and those problems are caused by the courts! With DNA testing, there should be no question about whether the person being put to death is guilty or not. Give death row inmates the DNA tests they ask for, and if they are exonerated, great, let them out of jail (I don't want innocent people executed), but if the tests show they did it, lead them straight to the chamber.
Yes, the death penalty is given disproportionally to black men...but I am a black male, my brother and father were black men, and they were killed by black men. So, would it have been racist to have put them to death?
Berman and others talk constantly about the rights of the guilty, forgetting about those of us who have had to live without our loved ones. Some people should lose their right to be in our society, so I fully support the death penalty and welcome its return. I just thought another view needed to be presented on this biased blog.
Posted by: | May 8, 2008 7:00:27 AM
"Though Professor Berman, and others here, are biased against the death penalty"
New here, aren't you?
Posted by: JDB | May 8, 2008 8:06:53 AM
federalist -- you have any link for your assertion that death row exonerations number 4 in the last five years?
Posted by: Reader | May 8, 2008 9:29:19 AM
To the writer who lost his brother and his father, I am very sorry for the horrific loss you have suffered, one that I cannot begin to truly comprehend other than by the fear I have that I would ever lose my beloved brother or my father. I do not support the death penalty because it makes me a killer, and forces me to take the brothers, fathers, of others who like yourself love the person killed. It requires an immense amount of public resources that might reduce violence and -- just as importantly -- might be used to help you and your family and other families. I do not pretend in the least that it can "cure" the murder of your brother and father. Tragically, nothing can, not even execution.
PS while Professor Berman doesn't need me to defend him, he has been very supportive of the death penalty.
Posted by: David | May 8, 2008 10:17:51 AM
Reader--just look at DPIC's website. The website lists exonerations and states whether they were DNA exonerations.
I think the post from the person who lost his father and brother is a reminder just how awful a crime murder is. And parole, which is held up as enlightened, has its costs for the victims' families.
As for DK, if you want to twist the meaning of the English language, that's fine, but please do not use your warped understanding of the English language to presume what I think or care about. Those of us who support a vigorous death penalty have zero issues with dealing with actual innocence. Too bad far too much death penalty litigation is over whether mommy and daddy were big meanies or over bogus innocence claims like Kevin Cooper's.
Posted by: federalist | May 8, 2008 10:47:34 AM
thanks federalist for disproving your own claim! I now know why you didn't provide a link -- your assertion is total BS :).
DPIC, which you suggested, has info here: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/article.php?did=412&scid=6#inn-yr-rc
In the last 5 full years (2003-2007), twenty-four (24!!!!) people have been exonerated. Three have also been exonerated so far in 2008.
The DPIC also states that, since 1973, 129 people have been released from death row with evidence of innocence.
I'm not surprised that your bloodlust is based on inaccurate information. Of course, I'm sure you'll claim that you referred to 4 "DNA exonerations" whereas the DPIC stats are for "exonerations," as though there is some great difference. Let me preemptively note that the DPIC has an additional category titled "Released From Death Row (Probable Innocence)" which does not appear to be included among the numbers I gave. So whether from DNA evidence or something else, the 24 listed exonerees had more than "probable innocence."
Posted by: Reader | May 8, 2008 11:19:31 AM
Reader, you say I proved myself wrong, but your post says I was right. There have only been 4 DNA exonerations in the past 5 years. Perhaps if you read more, you'd realize that DPIC's "innocence" figure almost certainly includes people who got away with murder, e.g., Timothy Hennis.
You are a bright one, aren't you?
Posted by: federalist | May 8, 2008 11:34:14 AM
Apparently you're also illiterate.
Do explain your belief that some major difference exists b/n "DNA exonerations" and the other cases listed in DPIC's list (to which you suggested I turn).
Here are the standards for making it on DPIC's list of "exonerations," the list that shows 24 people in the last 5 full years, as I mentioned above.
For Inclusion on DPIC's Innocence List:
Defendants must have been convicted, sentenced to death and subsequently either-
a) their conviction was overturned AND
i) they were acquitted at re-trial or
ii) all charges were dropped
b) they were given an absolute pardon by the governor based on new evidence of innocence.
I can only guess that you will pound the table about (a)(ii), claiming such cases aren't "real" exonerations or something. But I would suggest prosecutors don't dismiss charges lightly and I cannot fathom any reasonable explanation not to include such people as exonerees.
I mean, I can predict a rant against, say, the exclusionary rule, arguing that *maybe* one of these cases involved dropped charges after a state post-conviction court found key evidence should have been suppressed [do recall that federal courts cannot grant a habeas petition on fourth amendment grounds], but such an argument only reveals a desire for a police state where the authorities should be able to ransack our homes. Such constraints on our liberty would merely be the price we pay for making sure that the police catch all wrong-doers and are not deterred from finding them using any means. We must protect the children, after all.
Posted by: Reader | May 8, 2008 11:48:38 AM
Hmmmmmmm. I am vindicated on my criticism of the NY Times, but I am the illiterate one. Maybe I was a bit picayune, but hey, aren't journalists supposed to get things right? The assertion certainly wasn't total BS either. I was correct--so please explain why you think my assertion was BS. And I am illiterate? I'd hate to see what you would call me if I were mistaken.
It must be so satisfying to be so sure of your moral high ground that those who are factually correct on a point are wrong on the point simply because they don't hold the same views as you. Wow. You must be a tenured Duke University liberal arts professor?
As for the 129 people "exonerated" from death row, I am morally certain some of them are those who simply got away with murder. But putting that to one side, the "exoneration" list deems the original conviction as a "false positive" without eliminating or even considering the possibility that the ultimate release was a "false negative".
And another thing, reader, please don't forget that not all people who believe in capital punishment are advocates of a police state. I know it's hard to get out of the paradigmatic thinking that equates belief in capital punishment with fascism, but try to open your mind a little bit. Some of us believe in limited government and are quite appalled at government overreach.
Posted by: federalist | May 8, 2008 1:35:26 PM
1. According to the most recent Gallup poll on the issue, 69% of the public approves the death penalty for murder. Are all those people "bloodlusters" too?
2. The percentage approving the death penalty in particular cases (for example, the Jessica Lunsford rape and murder) is often higher than when the question is asked generally. In the McVeigh case, a USA Today poll found that slightly over 80% favored the death penalty. It also found that a majority of those generally opposed to the death penalty favored it for McVeigh. Are those people also "bloodlusters?"
3. Out of 112 Supreme Court justices, all but four (Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun and now Stevens) have never found the death penalty to be cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Well respected moderate Justices Lewis F. Powell and Sandra Day O'Connor favored it. Are they also "bloodlusters?"
4. More generally, is it possible to disagree with pro-death penalty persons without hurling epithets like "bloodluster"? Even if not in a substantial majority in this country (which they are), pro-death penalty advocates might believe that that punishment saves innocent lives by deterrence and incapacitation, or that whether it does or not, there are some cases in which it is the only just sentence. Do those thundering "bloodluster" at their opponents see any irony in claiming the moral high ground while conducting the argument in terms that would make Joe McCarthy blush?
Posted by: Bill Otis | May 8, 2008 1:42:01 PM
Those interested in the death penalty debate might want to have a look at this article from the Washington Examiner:
In brief, the article recounts the story of a man in his early twenties who has now killed three people. The first was his uncle. He got sentenced to 30 years for that. Not to skip a beat, while in prison, he killed his 16 year-old cellmate. He got a life term for that. Now, while on a prison bus, he has killed yet a third person (another prisoner) out of revenge for some grievance (I don't know what).
His lawyer says he has serious mental problems. Yes, one would think so. But in the two prior cases, the trier of fact apparently did not find those problems so severe as to let him off the hook. People with mental problems can still form malice and act on it, and can still distinguish between right and wrong.
Imprisonment is not working for this man. He has killed three of his fellow creatures. If anyone here can provide assurance that he won't do it again, please say what that would be.
The guy is a killing machine. Are we finally gone to do something definitive to put a stop to it? Again, he has proved that imprisonment doesn't work. How many more inmates (who like the rest of us have civil rights) will have to be sacrificed before we say "enough" -- and, for once, mean it?
Posted by: Bill Otis | May 8, 2008 2:13:27 PM
RE: DNA - I think it behooves us to remember the Dallas prosecutor's office of 1970s and early 80s. (AKA "The reason why so much case law ends in Dretke") We know how bad they were in part because they were the only (or one of the only? I'm relying on newspapers here) offices to keep evidence from which DNA could be collected.
Posted by: Gray Proctor | May 8, 2008 2:34:35 PM
The question I'm interested in is how many federal executions there will be between now and January.
A new President won't change state death penalty laws and won't have an immediate impact on the U.S. Supreme Court, which could. Habeas reform, even if enacted could take a long time as well.
But, a new President has the power to promptly commute and intervene in the handling of federal death row cases.
The question is, will George W. Bush make an effort to clear out federal death row with a wave of executions before he leaves office?
Posted by: ohwilleke | May 8, 2008 4:58:25 PM
There was interesting reference to that in a fascinating roundtable debate in Texas chaired by Senator Ellis today - hopefully it will be accessible via the archive later. Present and speaking in the debate were Craig Watkins, the new Dallas County Prosecutor who is trying to clear up much of the mess, Barry Scheck and others from the Innocence Project, a panel of exonerees, a Judge, Police Chiefs etc. A very interesting debate and hopefully a prelude to some new efforts of reform by the State Legislature.
Look for realmedia live broadcasts and then archive on the Texas Senate website (though no idea when it gets transferred to archive). There will probably be a newspaper report of some kind tomorrow.
Posted by: peter | May 8, 2008 5:24:33 PM
Dallas News carries an ap report on that round table debate on wrongful convictions in Texas.
Posted by: peter | May 9, 2008 1:34:17 AM
Oh man, Federalist, you had the worst of that exchange with Reader. Both of you are a bit overblown rhetorically, but Reader has the hard numbers correct. You backed off your original position (from definite statistics to unsupported "moral certainty" about what the numbers were, etc.). All the while you blustered louder and louder, presumably as a smoke screen for your retreat. Ah, schadenfreude - a nice way to start a Thursday.
Posted by: Bob Jenkins | May 15, 2008 1:38:01 PM
SURELY OUR US SUPREME COURT KNOWS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STATE MURDER & EXECUTION IN GEORGIA ??
OUR US CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS OF THE FREE WORLD CONTINUE TO DENY MIDDLE CLASS AND WORKING POOR AMERICANS PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION EVEN THOUGH WRONGFUL EXECUTIONS & FALSE INCARCERATIONS CONTINUE ALL ACROSS AMERICA ???
*** 700 BILLION $$$ AVAILABLE FOR US BAILOUT, & NO $$$ FOR ALL POORER AMERICANS PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION ???????
WHERE ARE AMERICA 'S RELIGIOUS LEADERS ??
SENATOR OBAMA, THIS JUDICIAL INJUSTICE HAS BECOME AN AMERICAN ART FORM, AND NO LONGER CAN BE KEPT HIDDEN OR SECRET FROM THE AMERICAN PEOPLE EVEN IF CERTAIN (501c3) U$ RELIGIOU$ LEADER$ HAVE BEEN $ILENCED ??
LETS ALL HOPE OUR MEDIA FRIENDS CONTINUE TO SHOW AN INTEREST IN REPORTING ON THIS AMERICAN HORROR FACING THESE (TENS OF THOUSANDS) FORGOTTEN AND TRAPPED POORER AMERICANS, AND HOW THIS PRESIDENTIAL CONTENDER HANDLES THIS VERY SERIOUS ISSUE FACING AMERICA'S LATINO AND BLACK AMERICAN COMMUNITIES ????
WITH 80% OF THE BLACK AMERICAN VOTERS SAYING THEY SUPPORT SENATOR OBAMA IN THIS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, IT IS ONLY FAIR FOR EVERYONE TO KNOW PRIOR BEING ELECTED OUR NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES HOW THIS DEMOCRATIC SENATOR TRULY FEELS ABOUT THIS AMERICAN JUDICIAL INJUSTICE CONTINUING TO INFLICT GRAVE HARM ON THE BLACK & LATINO AMERICAN FAMILIES AND THEIR COMMUNITIES NATIONWIDE ??????
*** WHEN GOD'S FACE BECAME VERY RED ***
THE US SUPREME COURT GAVE ENEMY COMBATANTS FEDERAL APPEAL HC RIGHTS LAWYERS AND PROPER ACCESS TO US FEDERAL COURTS,AND POORER AMERICANS (MANY EVEN ON DEATH ROW) ARE DENIED PROPER FEDERAL APPEAL LEGAL REPRESENTATION TO OUR US FEDERAL COURTS OF APPEAL, AND ROTTING IN AMERICAN PRISONS NATIONWIDE ?????????
**** INNOCENT AMERICANS ARE DENIED REAL HC RIGHTS WITH THEIR FEDERAL APPEALS !
THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE $LOWLY FINDING OUT HOW EA$Y IT I$ FOR MIDDLE CLA$$ AND WORKING POOR AMERICAN$ TO FALL VICTIM TO OUR U$ MONETARY JUDICIAL $Y$TEM.
****WHEN THE US INNOCENT WERE ABANDONED BY THE GUILTY ****
The prison experts have reported that there are 100,000 innocent Americans currently being falsely imprisoned along with the 2,300,000 total US prison population nationwide.
Since our US Congress has never afforded poor prison inmates federal appeal legal counsel for their federal retrials,they have effectively closed the doors on these tens of thousands of innocent citizens ever being capable of possibly exonerating themselves to regain their freedom through being granted new retrials.
This same exact unjust situation was happening in our Southern States when poor and mostly uneducated Black Americans were being falsely imprisoned for endless decades without the needed educational skills to properly submit their own written federal trial appeals.
This devious and deceptive judicial process of making our poor and innocent prison inmates formulate and write their own federal appeal legal cases for possible retrials on their state criminal cases,is still in effect today even though everyone in our US judicial system knows that without proper legal representation, these tens of thousands of innocent prison inmates will be denied their rightful opportunities of ever being granted new trials from our federal appeal judges!!
Sadly, the true US *legal* Federal Appeal situation that occurs when any of our uneducated American prison inmates are forced to attempt to submit their own written Federal Appeals (from our prisons nationwide) without the assistance of proper legal counsel, is that they all are in reality being denied their legitimate rights for Habeas Corpus with our US FEDERAL COURTS and will win any future Supreme Court Case concerning this injustice!
For our judicial system and our US Congressional Leaders Of The Free World to continue to pretend that this is a real and fair opportunity for our American Middle Class and Working Poor Citizens, only delays the very needed future change of Federal Financing of all these Federal appeals becoming a normal formula of Our American judicial system.
It was not so very long ago that Public Defenders became a Reality in this country.Prior that legal reality taking place, their were also some who thought giving anyone charged with a crime a free lawyer was a waste of taxpayers $$.
This FACADE and HORROR of our Federal Appeal proce$$ is not worthy of the Greatest Country In The World!
***GREAT SOCIETIES THAT DO NOT PROTECT EVEN THEIR INNOCENT, BECOME THE GUILTY!
A MUST READ ABOUT AMERICAN INJUSTICE:
1) YAHOO AND 2) GOOGLE
MANNY GONZALES THE KID THAT EVERYONE FORGOT IN THE CA PRISON SYSTEM.
** A JUDICIAL RIDE OF ONES LIFE !
Posted by: DOUGLAS FIELD | Oct 1, 2008 7:05:38 PM