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September 24, 2009

"Time for a Moratorium to Rethink Executions"

The title of this post is the headline of this new commentary now up at The Huffington Post authored by Ohio's Secretary of State (and US Senate candidate), Jennifer Brunner.  The piece springboards off the failed execution attempt of Romell Broom in Ohio last week to set forth a fairly thorough (and rambling) assault on the death penalty on Ohio or anywhere else.  Here are a few excerpts from an interesting piece that might shake up the status quo concerning capital punishment in Ohio:

I am running for the United States Senate because I believe that public service is for the purpose of helping our fellow citizens realize improvement in their lives.  I believe that a government that treats its citizens with fairness, equality and respect, brings peace and justice to its citizens.  In this framework, killing in retribution for killing has no place.  It is in the community of sharing each other's burdens that we bridge the human chasm we cannot comprehend....

After Broom's execution was called off, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio asked state officials to immediately halt executions. "Ohio's execution system is fundamentally flawed. If the state is going to take a person's life, they must ensure that it is done as humanely as possible," ACLU Ohio counsel Carrie Davis said. "With three botched executions in as many years, it's clear that the state must stop and review the system entirely before another person is put to death."

I agree....

I cannot condone a system that perpetuates the pain from which sprang the punishment. A civilized society does not abide barbarism to ease its pain. It is not justice for me. Even when those who represent me and make the laws say that it is, I say that the people have said, "Then if this is justice, it must not perpetuate the cruelty from which it has sprung." It must neither torment its recipients nor its administrators.

In Ohio, after a 30-month review of the state's death penalty system, a team of Ohio legal experts, working under the auspices of the American Bar Association's Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project, issued a report on September 24, 2007 calling for a temporary halt to executions in Ohio in light of numerous problems the team uncovered....

The failed attempted execution of Romell Broom is the latest reason to end the death penalty in Ohio. Since 1976 Ohio has executed 32 people. That puts Ohio in the top 10 of states and it's a top 10 we must exit....

Now is the time to rethink, first, how we kill, and then move on to the larger question of whether we even should kill in the first place.  We must begin to be the change we seek to improve individual lives one-by-one with temperance, patience and understanding.  We must focus on the improvements that shape and build and strengthen individual lives in our communities.  We must recognize and internalize that all are entitled to the basic rights as we the people have determined in our constitutions and entrusted to our courts to protect.  And when one of us violates those rights, we must continue to abide by these principles in addressing it.

There is much discussion ahead as we dare to embrace the change that lay before us. With your help I can begin that discussion in the Senate along with many other thoughtful and diverse minds.

In the interim I call for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty to allow the dialog to begin once again -- not just about how people are put to death, but whether they should be.  Like 15 other states that have outlawed prisoner executions, I believe that answer is no. I ask that you join me.

September 24, 2009 at 02:15 PM | Permalink


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"In the interim I call for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty to allow the dialog to begin once again...."

We haven't been debating this issue the whole time? We can't have a dialog without a moratorium?

If you want to call for a moratorium, go ahead and call for one. But to say that a moratorium is a prerequisite for a dialog is so obviously fallacious that anyone who says it is either lacking in the ability to do elementary logical reasoning or thinks her audience is.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Sep 24, 2009 3:26:36 PM

A welcome and timely and - at the moment - politically expedient statement.

Perhaps Lee Fischer - Ohio's consummate past master of political expediency - will try to one-up her on the issue in their upcoming Senate primary face-off, by reversing his past flip-flop on the issue and speaking out against capital punishment again as well.

Scott Taylor

Posted by: Scott Taylor | Sep 24, 2009 3:31:54 PM

Kent is sounding awfully frustrated these days. Not hard to see why.

Posted by: Samuel | Sep 24, 2009 4:11:11 PM

Hey, Kent!

Why don't you go stick yourself with something!


It will surely ease your pain.

Posted by: anon | Sep 24, 2009 4:13:06 PM

Note that neither of comments referring to mine have even attempted to refute the substance.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Sep 24, 2009 4:20:48 PM


You're taking her statement out of context. She mentioned on two separate occasions in the excerpt that Ohio's current system is fundamentally flawed and needs to be reevaluated. When she says "the dialogue," she's referring to our method of execution, and then whether we should execute at all:

"Now is the time to rethink, first, how we kill, and then move on to the larger question of whether we even should kill in the first place."

Posted by: Res ipsa | Sep 24, 2009 4:27:57 PM

Does the Ohio Constitution ask the Attorney General to defend its laws, even the laws she disagrees with, per Chapter 109.02?

If it does, it is time to call for this lawyer's resignation. She refuses to do her duty.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 24, 2009 5:55:22 PM


This is the Secretary of State, not AG. If it were the AG you might have a point.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Sep 24, 2009 6:24:17 PM

No, I am not taking her out of context. Calling for a moratorium because one believes the process is too flawed to continue is one argument. Saying a moratorium is needed "to allow the dialog to begin once again" is another, and exceptionally fatuous, argument. The dialog quite obviously never stopped and is not dependent on a moratorium.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Sep 24, 2009 6:35:18 PM

SH: You are absolutely right. I retract my comment.

She is a record keeper. She counts ballots, etc. Her opinion has no more consequence than that of other citizens. I also think she has made her mind up, and there will be no real rethinking. Any rethinking is to be done by people who disagree with her. Also any writer for the Huffington Post is in the lunatic fringe of left wing ideology, and presumptively dismissed, until shown to be serious. It is a hate speech site. They all hate America.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 24, 2009 7:12:16 PM

Kent, addressing the substance of your question of whether it is necessary to have a moratorium to discuss the two questions of whether we will have the death penalty, and if so, how should it be carried out, I believe the answer is yes. I say that for two reasons. It appears that a new segment of society is weighing in on the question of capital punishment with a new set of concerns. For the first time, I am hearing people who have previously been removed from the death penalty debate using words like "surreal", "macabre" and "Kafkaesque" to describe the latest Ohio episode.

Rancor and agitation have sadly accompanied recent attempts to have public discourse concerning a variety of subjects. We have seen how a single spontaneous outburst can overshadow discussion of the topic which was the target of the outburst by Mr. Wilson. The death penalty discussion should take place in an atmosphere of seriousness and consideration for the victim's family, the defendant's family and the condemned.

In my opinion, the only way to have a deliberate discussion of this latest example of a problem with capital punishment is to stop the process while we talk about whether the process is flawed, and indeed whether the damage that the process inflicts on our society is worth the punishment it inflicts on the condemned.

bruce cunningham

Posted by: bruce cunningham | Sep 24, 2009 8:36:16 PM

"Saying a moratorium is needed "to allow the dialog to begin once again" is another, and exceptionally fatuous, argument. The dialog quite obviously never stopped and is not dependent on a moratorium."

I think that statement conflates the distinction between the always ongoing public debate and a governmental inquiry, and I think a governmental inquiry is what Secretary Brunner is referring to in her article. Would you not agree that it is a bit nonsensical to put someone to death while there is an ongoing governmental inquiry as to whether or not putting them to death is the appropriate thing to do? An execution cannot be undone. The public debate is always ongoing, but, if there is going to be a governmental inquiry, shouldn't the government halt executions until a resolution is reached?

Posted by: JC | Sep 24, 2009 8:36:30 PM

No call for moratorium called for the 17,000 extra-judicial executions taking place under the management of the criminal law by the pro-criminal lawyer. Not one word of condemnation for the murderers that are the customer of the lawyer.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 24, 2009 10:44:59 PM

We do have a call for a moratorium of the extra-judicial executions--it's illegal under the law. For those who violate the law, we have a guilty verdict as a condemnation.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Sep 25, 2009 12:08:16 PM

SC: I posted this on a previous thread, but I might have came too late to that particular party because there were few responses after my posting:

I assume the 17,000 "extra-judicial executions" you frequently reference is based on the yearly U.S. murder rate. You seem to be making an assumption that all murders are preventable through your 123D proposal. You might be correct if all future murderers had the decency to be caught for three other crimes before they are allowed to murder. How do account for the murders caused by serial killers and the insane, sudden passion, and others who have no previous run-ins with the judicial system? What is the lawyers' failing in those cases? Lack of clairvoyance?

Also, I don't understand how your ideas to eliminate lawyers would make the U.S. a safer country. Just today I read an article about the violence of the international drug trade in West Africa and Mexico where the police, prosecutors, and judges participate in maintaining the violence through bribes and blind-eyes. I believe our rule of law, even with its flaws, helps prevent us from falling into the quagmires of corruption and violence of these countries. Since I know you disagree, I would like to know how you would keep everyone safe while eliminating our current judicial system. Please explain.


Posted by: Shawn | Sep 25, 2009 12:54:06 PM

Shawn, there's no use arguing with jolly ol' Saint Dick. If it's bad, it's the lawyers' fault. If we get rid of the lawyers, the world will be a paradise.

Posted by: William O. Rights | Sep 25, 2009 1:18:56 PM

Seconded. It's fairly difficult to argue with a delusional megalomaniac who takes flagrantly inconsistent positions as a matter of course. On the other hand, I guess logic is a relic of Medieval scholasticism that violates the Establishment Clause...

Posted by: Res ipsa | Sep 25, 2009 4:00:51 PM

Shawn: You are a law student and carry a heavy burden. You have to fix the lawyer profession in utter failure in every goal of every law subject.

The dumbasses here are gone as far as salvageability from their supernatural beliefs and rent seeking. "Dumbass" is a lawyer term of art, not an epithet. It is a person with an IQ of 300, from our modern era, who is indoctrinated into Medieval garbage doctrines in 1L, and does not even know what happened. He now just believes in the supernatural, and accepts the total mind domination of a small hierarchy. He accepts a lot of ideas and methods from the Catechism and other faith based, but unlawful sources, such as Scholasticism. Dumbass is a charitable term for this chump and cult victim.

Remedies vs toxicity are often a matter of dose. Countries have too many lawyers, too few. Neither is good for the rule of law which is an utility product. We have 500,000 lawyer too many. What the dumbasses do not realize is that I am their best friend. Their salary and public esteem would double without our being overrun by this pestilential over supply of lawyers, eating up our productivity and plundering everything they can get their hands on.

As to murder. It is time to let go of Scholasticism, and to acknowledge this is a probabilistic universe. The criminals are well know at age 7, and likely are well know at age 3. The reason is that they act the same at those ages as they do at age 30. It is time to stop the charade of trials for individual acts to generate a bunch of lawyer make work jobs. The adversarial system is itself a Scholasticist method to arrive at a correct answer. It is for people of 1250 AD who had no technology knowledge. OK 800 years ago, not OK today. You have to find the tightness that will stop crime by incapacitation but not oppress the public. The other four aims of the criminal law are immature, Medieval, and a waste of money. The public derives no substantive benefit, except for incapacitation.

Incapacitation from the Sentencing guideline dropped the crime rate 40%. The lawyer knows how to eradicate crime, chooses to set a rate, and herd it into neighborhoods of dark skinned people. The lawyer saw this drop and ended the guidelines as a vehicle of incapacitation.

In lawyer residential neighborhoods, crime is infinitesimally rare. If a violent criminal shows up, three police cars arrive in 2 minutes, blasting. The death penalty is on the spot. There is no ruinous civil rights litigation where the lawyer lives. They got racial profiling, where employers have to complain. Their dark skinned workers refuse to work late because they will be harassed by the police after dark. (I oppose racial profiling, the lawyer does not in his own area.)

A simple count of violent offenses is as good as any method to find those most likely to repeat violence. Everyone mellows with age. If you were to take out the violent offenders, you would have very rare crime of any kind. Crime is an inefficiency in the economy. Elimination of crime and the lawyer rent seeking that maintains it intentionally, would double or triple our wealthiness.

I do not favor getting rid of lawyers. I favor executing the insurrectionist hierarchy, about 15,000 people. I favor excluding the lawyer from government high positions because of the lawyer incompetence. But their reduction in force would double the salary and public esteem.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 25, 2009 5:02:43 PM

With luck, the Democrats will nominate this Secretary of State, with her oozing contempt for the unwashed masses of barbarians (otherwise known as "voters"), which will go a long way to assuring that the Republicans retain this seat.

Even Obama has gone on record as favoring the death penalty for particularly atrocious murders. For a Democrat like Secretary Brunner to actually want to run to Obama's left in 2010 is quite something. This sort of thing might go over well on the Huffington Post and with ACORN and other segments who tend to show up voting in Democratic primaries, but the general electorate in Ohio is a different matter.

Good luck, Secretary Brunner, and have at it. You bring to mind the old saying, "Thank God for your enemies."

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 25, 2009 6:04:28 PM

"In my opinion, the only way to have a deliberate discussion of this latest example of a problem with capital punishment is to stop the process while we talk about whether the process is flawed, and indeed whether the damage that the process inflicts on our society is worth the punishment it inflicts on the condemned."

In an ideal world I agree. In this world what you suggest is not a neutral event. Even though it shouldn't, the reality is that it looks like a capitulation to the anti-death penalty crowd. I think it's very unfortunate that this debate has devolved into an either you are with me or against me debate. But the responsibility for that reality is on the anti-death penalty supporters. If they want discussion, they could have had that along long time ago.

Posted by: Daniel | Sep 25, 2009 8:17:14 PM

Shawn: Some perspective. "megalomaniac" No. I am an ordinary person. Imagine a well stocked, but average marine of 2009. Land him in 1250 AD. Assignment: secure that castle, eliminate any military threat from within.

It would be a slaughter not because of personal warrior superiority, but because of the modern equipment of the Marine. With a sniper rifle, he would reach out to the leaders of the castle from a mile away. They would view his ability as magical.

The lawyers here are awed by high school stuff from the 21st Century. They may have twice my IQ, but they are still mired in Medieval garbage. Modern high school thinking is amazing and outlandish to them. .

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 25, 2009 9:24:48 PM

Daniel --

"I think it's very unfortunate that this debate has devolved into an either you are with me or against me debate. But the responsibility for that reality is on the anti-death penalty supporters. If they want discussion, they could have had that a long long time ago."

Actually, they DID have it a long time ago. Specifically, there was an effective moratorium on executions in this country for ten years, from 1967 to 1977. During that time, and for the decades following it, there was and has been a robust, nationwide discussion of the death penalty. Every conceivable issue has been put on the table and debated at length -- innocence, racial disparity, cost, method of execution, quality of counse, prosecutorial misconduct, you name it. The idea that we need yet another moratorium to keep talking about what we've been talking about for 40 years (if not longer) is preposterous. It is preposterous on its face, and even more so in light of the fact that any serious person would have to agree that the death penalty is more fair and accurate now than it was before the first moratorium.

Maybe we should have a moratorium on imprisonment too, since the generally accepted evidence of occasional incarceration of the innocent is vastly more plentiful than any generally accepted evidence of the execution of an innocent person (at least if one discounts, as I do, the Roger Keith Coleman innocence hoax).

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 25, 2009 11:25:12 PM

Shawn: Briefly, to answer your question. Incapacitation. By increases sentences, the guidelines dropped crime 40%. The lawyer knows how to control crime when he decides to.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 26, 2009 1:25:27 AM

Shawn: Did I address your concern to your satisfaction? I have no dispute with law students, and their opinions are important to me.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 27, 2009 2:34:58 PM

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