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June 30, 2011

"Poll shows support for death penalty strong, confidence in justice system weak"

The title of this post is the headline of this new piece from the Dallas Morning News, which provides this report:

Support for the death penalty remains strong in the U.S. according to a recent poll from Rasmussen Reports. Sixty-three percent of adults favor capital punishment, while 25 percent oppose it and 12 percent are undecided. Whites are more supportive than blacks and people over 30 years of age are more in favor than those under 30.

[In addition] less than half of adults nationwide believe the American justice system is fair to most Americans. Their biggest concern is that the guilty go free. Perhaps most disturbing is that confidence in the system has dropped sharply from a year ago.  Study the survey for yourself here.

Perhaps the nost notable tidbit from this Rasmussen poll, in my view, is this item: "More adults than ever report that crime in their community has increased over the past year, and most think the continuing bad economy will cause the crime rate to rise even higher."

June 30, 2011 at 05:41 PM | Permalink

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Comments

The most striking thing about the poll is its highlighting how different the public feels about the DP than so many who comment on this blog.

On this and other legal sites, there is a constant anti-DP drumbeat. We all know it by now. It costs too much. We execute innocent people. It's a racist pogrom. Etcetera.

This has gone on and on for years. The pitch has never been more shrill, nor the agitation more frenetic.

And with what results?

The same fat majority that has supported the DP for years supports it now.

There were two other striking things about the poll. One was that a plurality of blacks support the DP. The other was that the public views the main drawback of the system as being, not that it convicts the innocent -- another complaint we see here with dependable, ear-spliting regularity -- but that we too often FAIL to convict the guilty.

I would say I'd wait for the self-annointed "experts" to catch up with the citizens, but I just don't have that much time.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 30, 2011 8:41:01 PM

I think if you took a poll of people who are involved in and have the best knowledge of how the criminal justice system and DP actually worked, you would get different results. The general public quite simply doesn't know enough to make a truly informed opinion. They may have a hunch or a gut reaction. And that's pretty much what this poll reflects.

Posted by: anon | Jun 30, 2011 9:20:42 PM

"Their biggest concern is that the guilty go free."

Why would this be a surprise? The regulars at HLN/In Session and much of the media would make Justice Thomas look like the president of the ACLU. The difference this time is all the action and reaction is traceable online, like how so many are convinced Casey Anthony used drugs and duct tape to murder her poor little daughter despite the lack of any evidence. There will be outrage if she is acquitted and much of that outrage will be based on false or inadmissible evidence.

Posted by: Anon | Jun 30, 2011 10:30:52 PM

Anon --

"...so many are convinced Casey Anthony used drugs and duct tape to murder her poor little daughter despite the lack of any evidence. There will be outrage if she is acquitted and much of that outrage will be based on false or inadmissible evidence."

What position do you occupy that enables you to determine what evidence was false?

As for Ms. Anthony, her behavior after Caylee went missing and the enormous number of convoluted lies she told everyone she talked to are sufficient per se to show guilt. An innocent mother simply does not act the way she did.

When the truth is that you're innocent, you speak the truth. She has yet to, even once.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 30, 2011 11:03:24 PM

Anon --

Do you honestly think this woman, given her party-time behavior after her only child went missing, given that she did not so much as report it to the police, given the multitude of detailed lies she told everyone she talked to about it, is innocent in the child's death?

And no, I am not inviting a labyrinth discussion of standards of proof. I am talking about on-the-ground reality.

The idea that it was all innocent is so far-fetched as to qualify as another defense lawyer fantasy. It thus fits in quite well with the other fantasy that her lawyer published, to wit, that her father molested her and that this caused (???) her behavior.

Of course, after making this outlandish and disgusting accusation, defense counsel adduced zero evidence to back it up. I guess the idea it that you just toss out a sensational smear against the father, we can focus attention somewhere other than on Ms. Anthony.

You're falling for this??

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 1, 2011 9:17:12 AM

Again, guilty of what? You said a lot nothing but didn't state that.

Do a Google for these search terms.

zanny xanax casey anthony

Posted by: Anon | Jul 1, 2011 9:48:16 AM

Guilty of criminal involvement in her child's death. I don't know the degree. Neither do you and neither does Google. I am content to let the jury decide that question, notwithstanding the flagrant lies and reckless smears it heard from Ms. Anthony's counsel.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 1, 2011 10:10:41 AM

News from Texas today (http://tinyurl.com/3d64ymx):

"The state of Texas on Thursday cut a $1.4 million check for the man who spent 18 years in prison -- 12 of them on death row -- for six murders that he didn't commit...[Anthony] Graves had his conviction overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct. He was scheduled for a retrial but was set free after new prosecutors reviewed his case and determined that he was innocent."

Posted by: C | Jul 1, 2011 10:29:28 AM

C --

Erroneous convictions are as inevitable as erroneous acquittals. The difference is (1) the latter are more frequent, given the asymmetrical burden of proof; and (2) erroneously acquitted criminals won't be writing their victims any checks.

Adults understand that fallibility is part of life.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 1, 2011 11:32:33 AM

"adults understand that fallibility is a part of life."

Tell that to Mr. Graves, who spent 18 years with a death sentence over his head, shackled and humiliated every day, for a crime he did not commit.

Posted by: assistant federal defender | Jul 1, 2011 11:46:16 AM

assistant federal defender --

I'll tell it to anyone with open ears, since it is, as you understandably do not deny, 100% true.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 1, 2011 11:58:59 AM

I would love to see empirical evidence to back up the assertion that erroneous acquittals are more frequent than erroneous convictions.

I do agree that there is an "asymmetrical burden of proof," though. Most jurors walk in ready to convict, despite the instructions they are given. Ask anyone who's ever served on a jury.

My guess would be that erroneous convictions vastly outnumber erroneous acquittals.

Posted by: SRS | Jul 1, 2011 12:14:45 PM

Mr. Bill,

STILL STRIKING FOUL BLOWS

Posted by: George | Jul 1, 2011 1:19:20 PM

George,

I actually started to read your linked piece, but quickly saw that the star of the show was Nancy Grace, at which point I stopped.

I can't stand her, anymore than I could stand Keith Olberman. Nothing is worse than tuning in to some smarmy talking head who makes things even worse by constantly yelling.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 1, 2011 1:56:16 PM

Anyone can list cases where in their opinion the acquittal was erroneous and why they think so. But that would be quantified opinion not objective data. It is very difficult to convict in a rape case and the prosecutors know that when they take the case to trial. If such a case were to result in an acquittal many observers would consider it to be erroneous including some members of the jury that voted to acquit.

Posted by: John Neff | Jul 1, 2011 2:06:03 PM

Bill:

Graves spent 12 years on death row before he was exonerated. Many people believe death sentences should be carried well before 12 years passes. If those people had their way, this innocent person would be dead. Correct me if I am wrong, but you really seem perfectly comfortable with the idea that this person (and many more like him) be executed, despite their factual innocence. Am I reading your comment incorrectly?

I am not sure what you mean by erroneous acquittals. The only way a person can be criminally responsible is by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. If a person is factually guilty, but proof beyond a reasonable doubt does not come before the jury, the person is not erroneously acquitted - he is simply not convicted. The presumption of innocence is not overcome.

Further, there is no doubt the number of "erroneous acquittals" as you call it is dwarfed by the number of "erroneous" dismissals, no-bills, and refusals to prosecute.

In fact, I would suggest the number of undiscovered, unreported, uninvestigated crimes greatly exceeds all of the previous categories combined.

Posted by: C | Jul 1, 2011 2:07:55 PM

SRS --

"I would love to see empirical evidence to back up the assertion that erroneous acquittals are more frequent than erroneous convictions."

So would I, but good luck. Because of the DJC, erroneous acquittals cannot be further litigated, while erroneous convictions can. Thus there will be documentation of the latter but not of the former.

That said, if you see the famously acquitted OJ coming at you with a knife, my advice is to head for the hills.

"Most jurors walk in ready to convict, despite the instructions they are given. Ask anyone who's ever served on a jury."

I personally have no earthly way to know what "most jurors" think walking in, since I have run across maybe 0.001% of "most jurors."

But if your guess is right, there's a reason for it. Normal people understand that the cops are not Nazis (many commenters here notwithstanding), and do not make a practice of arresting innocent people.

I have very limited exposure to the criminal justice system outside my former job in DOJ. I have been pulled over for speeding, I think four times. Every single time I was guilty. I didn't like it, but it's not a record that gives me much personal basis to believe that the cops are getting it wrong.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 1, 2011 2:10:00 PM

C --

"Correct me if I am wrong, but you really seem perfectly comfortable with the idea that this person (and many more like him) be executed, despite their factual innocence. Am I reading your comment incorrectly?"

Yes. Being "perfectly comfortable" with the idea of an unjust execution (if one were ever proven in the modern era) is quite different from the ACCEPTANCE, which is a fact of life for me and every other adult, of the inevitability of error, including tragic and costly error.

People are sometimes erroneously convicted spend years in prison. Of course there's an easy way to stop this: Send no one to prison, ever, for anything.

Wanna do that?

No, I guess not.

Why?

Because you understand that it's a matter of trade-off's. In order to have a just and secure disposition for many, we risk an unjust disposition for a few.

This does not make you callous. It makes you a member of the adult world. It's the same reason you don't raise the roof when a factually guilty man walks and then does it again to some unsuspecting victim.

"I am not sure what you mean by erroneous acquittals."

Easy: An acquittal entered where the defendant, with criminal intent, in fact committed the act with which he was charged. It's not a fancy dance or a word game. Did he do it or not?

"Further, there is no doubt the number of "erroneous acquittals" as you call it is dwarfed by the number of "erroneous" dismissals, no-bills, and refusals to prosecute....In fact, I would suggest the number of undiscovered, unreported, uninvestigated crimes greatly exceeds all of the previous categories combined."

I won't disagree with you. I will note, however, that nothing in what you say means that erroneous acquittals are desirable, or that we wouldn't be better off without them.

The reason I don't spend a lot of time on this site complaining about them is exactly what I've been talking about. They are bad news but they're part of life. The world simply does not offer an error-free system, and -- the America Stinks lobby to the contrary -- I am grateful for the one we have in this country. Are you?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 1, 2011 3:13:26 PM

Support for the dp drops substantially in polls when life with no possibility of parole is included as an option. This being a Rasmussen poll, it doesn't surprise me that LWOP wasn't included.

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/lifestyle/questions/questions_crime_june_25_26_2011

Posted by: The Death Penalty Sucks. | Jul 1, 2011 5:40:46 PM

Sucks --

What assurance can you offer that a future legislature will not restore the possibility of parole? Do you personally pledge to oppose such a restoration?

Crack penalties at the federal level were recently substantially reduced when a more liberal majority (temporarily) took over. How do we know something similar won't happen with LWOP?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 1, 2011 6:32:25 PM

The public is correct. The criminal law is in utter failure, save for generating worthless, government, lawyer jobs. These include those of the traitorous white collar defense bar.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 1, 2011 10:53:58 PM

Bill:

I have previously commented that I respect and admire you greatly for the consistency and passion for the views that you represent. You have to remember that I am a retired engineer who in my past life had to deal immensely in 21 CFR, and actually was successful in establishing the current EMEA and FDA Guidelines for drug development. To do so, we needed the preponderance of the scientific evidence on our behalf. The Feds, were NEVER helpful in this world of reality.

The above article is about two things; the acceptance of capital punishment and distrust of the justice system.

I accept as fact that the death penalty is appropriate for many individuals who have committed serious crimes. However, before I accept as fact the death penalty, I would have to accept the Justice System as it is CURRENTLY practiced. That, I cannot do.

There are many lies by prosecutors, LE, politicians and Congress (your god, not mine) that the public refuses to look at because they are suckling on their platitudes which are leading us to financial destruction.

SC; as he occasionally does, had something useful to say:

"The public is correct. The criminal law is in utter failure, save for generating worthless, government, lawyer jobs. These include those of the traitorous white collar defense bar."

You mentioned once that you were a failed libertarian, because there were just enough flaws in the philosophy as to make it unworkable.

I believe that conservatives have a greater grasp on reality than liberals, but refuse to address their weaknesses.

Posted by: albeed | Jul 2, 2011 12:00:04 AM

"Perhaps the nost notable tidbit from this Rasmussen poll, in my view, is this item: "More adults than ever report that crime in their community has increased over the past year, and most think the continuing bad economy will cause the crime rate to rise even higher.""

Prof. Berman: Please stop calling me selective in my data when I claim that counts of falling crime rates are false, because based on police reports. The police has a strong conflict of interest to under-report so that their administrations are not fired. The best measure is the DOJ victimization household survey. That was suspended by the Obama Administration to improve the methodology, they said. The methodology already set the gold standard and had nothing wrong with it, was adopted by the UN for worldwide surveys. This is a cover up of the rising crime rate so that the public does not demand the heads of Democratic Party politicians who have a vested interest in a high crime rate (to grow government).

The lawyer has now defined criticism as child emotional abuse. One may not criticize a prisoner without being reported, and losing one's job. When I say, feminist lawyer, feminism, as the KKK was, is a Trojan Horse for the criminal cult enterprise that is the lawyer profession.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 2, 2011 10:28:43 AM

Mr Bill,

First, you argue that "her behavior" is proof of murder, though there is no evidence of murder in that behavior. If it was a robbery/murder and she spent the blood money during that behavior, that would be proof. I didn't follow the Scott Peterson case at all, but some said he was convicted not based on evidence, but because the jury did not like him and they compare the two trials. Evidently that is the tactic in the Anthony case. Do you want this to be the standard for convictions?

As a demonstration of how biased the public is, you were asked to Google zanny xanax casey anthony, but despite asking for any proof of the public's bias, you now claim you will rely on the jury. You were also non-responsive regarding if you think a search for chloroform three months earlier is proof of premeditation.

Then, you claim to reject Nancy Grace but your post at 9:17:12 AM sounds exactly like her, though perhaps not as shrill. Indeed, Grace wrote that defense attorneys are like Nazis in her book.

It would appear that you are either a Nancy Grace convert or Nancy Grace merely tapped into a pro government zeitgeist. It portends dark roads ahead that she agrees with almost every ruling in the Anthony trial by Judge Perry, as do the majority of those obsessed with the trial (presumed guilty people). One thing is certain, there is enough information in this trial regarding the law and the public to keep law students, criminologists, psychologists and sociologists busy for years. For example, compare the public's comments with Judge Perry's rules for closing arguments. (pdf)

Posted by: George | Jul 2, 2011 5:59:39 PM

"Sucks --

What assurance can you offer that a future legislature will not restore the possibility of parole? Do you personally pledge to oppose such a restoration?"

Sure. I'm all in favor of LWOP for truly dangerous violent offenders who have no chance of being rehabilitated.

Posted by: The Death Penalty Sucks. | Jul 2, 2011 7:09:24 PM

George --

Would you believe that I have no interest in what either the public or Nancy Grace thinks of this trial?

I have been following it only sporadically. I have been an adult a long time, however; I know what loving mothers behave like (they don't do party time when their children are missing) and I know what innocent people behave like (they don't tell a boatload of convoluted lies for months to everyone they run across). This does not describe Ms. Anthony. The idea that she had no criminal involvement in her kid's death is completely far-fetched, with or without chloroform, zanny or xanax (whatever they are). (Which is why I didn't and don't have any interest in Googling them).

I said earlier, in an entry on Crime and Consequences linked and discussed by Doug, what I think of defense counsel, to wit, that they range anywhere from snark specialists (which we have seen here) to thoughtful, intelligent and fair-minded (which we have also seen here).

As to Ms. Anthony's counsel, I will not venture an opinion beyond this: He opened up claiming that the father and brother had molested his client yet produced not one iota of evidence for that outlandish, gutter-level accusation. Where I come from, you don't make accusations like that unless they're true and you can prove it. Would you ever do something like that?

Since I don't watch Nancy Grace, I have no idea whether what I say is congruent with what she says. Sometimes she's going to say that 2+2=4, and in those instances, I will heartily agree. I don't measure what I think by Nancy Grace (or Eric Holder or Lynn Stewart). I do, however, by -- to give one example -- Michael Mukasey.

The people here who speak up for Casey Anthony just utterly refuse to come to terms with, or even mention for that matter, her behavior in this case. But there it is, dismiss or ignore it as you may wish. Innocent people don't behave as she has, and everyone knows it. Unfortunately for her, "everyone" includes the jury.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 2, 2011 7:18:48 PM

Innocent people don't behave as she has... does that mean she could be guilty of only covering up an accident? Why would a murderer behave like that and not a mother feeling guilty of neglect because she didn't watch her daughter when it most mattered? There is guilt either way. How come some mothers sometimes cover for their live-in boyfriends when the boyfriends murder or harm their children? Oh, they don't, never, ever do, because mothers don't behave like that.

Nor does Nancy Grace claim that every criminal defense lawyer is a Nazi, merely most.

As to the defense opening statements, that will either backfire, as most think, or it will be a brilliant defense. But let's save that discussion for during deliberations.

Posted by: George | Jul 2, 2011 8:01:27 PM

George --

You don't cover up an accident. You call 911 just as fast as you can. And you certainly don't toss your kid's body in the woods like a garbage bag for animals to chew on.

Ms. Anthony, though willing to make apparently any claim to throw people off, has NOT made the claim you refer to, to wit, that she's covering for someone else. Instead, she openly BLAMES someone else (her family). Thus it's the opposite of what you posit.

Was the opening statement a "brilliant defense?" Actually, it's no part of the defense at all. The court will instruct the jury that the arguments of counsel are not evidence, and that its deliberations are confined to evidence. But assuming arguendo that it was "brilliant," the more important question, as I see the world, is whether it was true. As I noted, and you do not contest, there was not a bit of evidence supporting it. That means it's nothing but a smear, and one of the ugliest smears a person can make.

Is this what we want for the legal profession?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 2, 2011 9:48:11 PM

i have to agree here with you bill. I know if i had been her father and the defense lawyer pulled on me what he pulled on him. They would have needed a LONG LONG LONG break to wait for his jaw to rebuld itself after i tried to take his head off!

NOTHING requires you to sit and take shit like that. Might have been diff if they had before hand presented ANYTHING approaching some kind of EVIDENCE the father did in fact do anything these joker lawyers have tried to claim! but cold turkey like that. i'd be trying to kill the sucker!

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 2, 2011 10:56:16 PM

Mr. Bill: You don't cover up an accident. You call 911 just as fast as you can. And you certainly don't toss your kid's body in the woods like a garbage bag for animals to chew on.

Right, but just because you or I wouldn't, that doesn't mean no one ever would. Indeed, you can search the google news archive and find examples of people panicking over an accident. I think Casey panicked out of fear. Also, that was how their pets were buried, and they loved their pets. While not acceptable, there is that reasonable explanation. Maybe Kronk dug up the burial. We do know he at least tampered with the remains.

MR. Bill: Ms. Anthony, though willing to make apparently any claim to throw people off, has NOT made the claim you refer to, to wit, that she's covering for someone else. Instead, she openly BLAMES someone else (her family). Thus it's the opposite of what you posit.

Not really because I would argue one is more culpable for covering up a crime than covering up an accident and it would be harder to do. She even said in one of her interviews that her mother would never forgive her for an accident, which sounded true despite your claim she never told the truth about anything. So while you try to argue that the ONLY reason would be to coverup a crime, there are times, as mentioned, when people cover up accidents. So your absolute is false.

Mr. Bill: Was the opening statement a "brilliant defense?" Actually, it's no part of the defense at all. The court will instruct the jury that the arguments of counsel are not evidence, and that its deliberations are confined to evidence. But assuming arguendo that it was "brilliant," the more important question, as I see the world, is whether it was true. As I noted, and you do not contest, there was not a bit of evidence supporting it. That means it's nothing but a smear, and one of the ugliest smears a person can make.

Is this what we want for the legal profession?

The judge would not allow any questioning of family dynamics or abuse. How could the defense prove anything? Even if true, no one would believe Casey if she testified. So the defense appears to be abandoning that. Funny though how the accuser is always right unless it is the defendant making the accusation (even if a former defendant, jail house snitch, making an accusation against the current defendant). Further, I don't think that saying he helped dispose of the body is blaming him for any crime since that is not one of the charges.

rodsmith, George Anthony got even by accusing Casey of killing Caylee for the first time in his latest testimony. There is a bit of Greek tragedy in this story.

Posted by: George | Jul 3, 2011 12:29:56 AM

Well, it's official: this is the dumbest jury impaneled since OJ. My only hope is that there is some obscure Florida law that could give her a long sentence for lying to investigators, the only charge of which she was convicted.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Jul 5, 2011 3:37:02 PM

could be that. could also be that the jury noticed the same thing i and others have. in this trial she was figthing the DA, the JUDGE and at times her own lawyers.

This judge basicaly from the beginning has shown a clear bias against her from the beginning. i never saw this coming. i figured it would be fough out in the appeals process where the judges actions would probably kill the entire thing.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 5, 2011 5:50:40 PM

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