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October 5, 2012

Gov Jerry Brown's notable (wise? unprincipled? chicken$%#&?) evolution concerning California's death penalty

Today's Sacramento Bee has this intriguing front-page article headlined "Jerry Brown sidesteps death penalty discussion as California voters face choice." Here are excerpts:

Two years ago, in the waning days of the gubernatorial campaign, Jerry Brown was asked why, given his moral reservations about the death penalty, he wouldn't try to stop it anymore.  As a young man, Brown had lobbied his father, then-Gov. Pat Brown, to stay a man's execution, and he vetoed death penalty legislation when he was governor before.

"I don't know," Brown said on an airplane between campaign rallies in the Central Valley. "You want to reinvent the world. But we have the world.  And this is a matter that's been before the voters … been before the Legislature.  At this point in time, it's relatively settled."

It may still be.  Though the margin is slight, a plurality of likely voters opposes a Nov. 6 ballot measure to repeal the death penalty, according to the Field Poll.  Nevertheless, the measure, Proposition 34, is on the ballot -- and Brown wants no part of it.

The Democratic governor has declined to say how he will vote on the death penalty or other ballot measures, and he is not expected to do so before Election Day.  He said is focused solely on his own initiative to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners.

Brown's careful distance from abolishing the death penalty, a cause he once championed, reflects the caution of a governor who has grown more sensitive to the limitations and political hazards of his office than when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983....

Brown was 21 when, one night in 1960, he called his father to urge a temporary stay of execution for convicted rapist Caryl Chessman.  Chessman was ultimately executed, but not before his father granted the temporary stay.  The decision was unpopular, and Pat Brown later said his political career suffered badly for it.

Seven years later, when Aaron Mitchell was executed at San Quentin State Prison, Jerry Brown participated in a vigil outside the prison, and 10 years after that, Brown vetoed legislation -- overridden by the Legislature -- to reinstate the death penalty.

He called it "a matter of conscience," a sentiment he expanded upon when he was asked while running for president in 1992 if his opposition to the death penalty was absolute. "Yes," Brown said.  "When someone is contained in a cage, then to bureaucratically, coldbloodedly snuff out their life, whether by poison or by electrocution or by gas, it seems, it doesn't seem right to me."

Peter Finnegan, a longtime friend of Brown's and his debate partner in high school, recalled holding candles outside San Quentin with Brown when they were young men.  They don't talk about the death penalty anymore.  "He just doesn't want to talk about it," said Finnegan, now a retired lobbyist and political activist. "You get nowhere talking about it, really, and it's kind of behind him, and everyone knows where he is, and that's that." When Brown was governor before, Finnegan recalled, "we'd sit around until 2 in the morning (discussing) this stuff." Now, Finnegan said, "he's just more focused … . I just think he's so much more mature."...

His position has been made awkward, however, by the presence of the death penalty initiative.  One day in April, Brown called it a "very, very important issue" and said he was glad the measure would be on the ballot, before saying that afternoon that his commitment to enforcing the death penalty was unwavering.  "I will carry out the law," Brown said, "without fear or failure and with fidelity to the will of the people."

A governor's endorsement can matter in an initiative campaign, but less so in one that involves a high-profile matter such as the death penalty, about which voters typically hold highly emotional, pre-existing beliefs.  Likely voters oppose Proposition 34, the measure to replace the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole, 45 percent to 42 percent, according to a recent Field Poll.

As suggested by the title of this post, I am interested in hearing reader views as to the right adjective to describe Gov Brown's death penalty evolution. I am inclined to pick the adjective "chickenshit" because I consider Brown's effort to stay mute on such a significant and symbolic aspect of the state's criminal justice system to be an act of profound political and personal cowardice.  Moreover, I think it would be pretty easy for Brown and his advisers to develop a politically astute and personally satisfying statement on this topic. That statement could read something like:

"Though I have long been morally opposed to the death penalty, I deeply respect those with contrary moral views, and I am personally and professionally committed to vigorous enforcement of any and all duly enacted criminal justice laws reflecting the will of the people in our state.  I am thrilled that this important issue is garnering renewed attention and that our citizens will now have the opportunity to express their current position on this matter directly via the ballot box.  Based on my long-standing moral beliefs, I expect to vote for Prop. 34, and I am especially excited to learn about the views of all fellow Californians on Prop 34 come November 6."

October 5, 2012 at 11:31 AM | Permalink

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"As suggested by the title of this post, I am interested in hearing reader views as to the right adjective to describe Gov Brown's death penalty evolution."

Shrewd.

That's if you think there has actually been evolution, which I don't. He's still an abbie. But he can get exactly what he wants -- no executions no matter what -- by doing what he's doing now, to wit, nothing. The status quo for the DP in California, as has been pointed out here many times, is that it's on the books but essentially never carried out.

Brown has all the load he can carry trying to push a big tax increase that, even if he gets it, couldn't possibly stop the looming bankruptcy of his state. Well-off people are already leaving in droves. Brown can't tax his way out of the insolvency the entitlement state creates any more than Obama can. Still, with the not all that popular rich-people-are-demons ideology Brown has, there's enough on his plate so that he's well advised to stay at arm's length from an unpopular measure like Prop 34. For practical purposes, there ALREADY is no death penalty in California.

As my father told me, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 5, 2012 12:01:31 PM

Prof. Berman:
" " I am interested in hearing reader views as to the right adjective to describe Gov Brown's death penalty evolution." "

VP Biden: "it happens to be, as Barack says, a three-letter word:"

Contradictory.

Posted by: Adamakis | Oct 5, 2012 3:13:55 PM

Brown's cowardice -- there's a word -- represents the triumph of the right wing’s use of criminal justice for political purposes in California during the 80s and 90s. Even now, more than a quarter century after the ouster of three supreme court justices for being “soft on crime,” no Democrat now dares approach criminal justice issues from anything other than the now-mainstream kill-'em-all-let-God-sort-'em-out stance. Brown’s protégé and former chief of staff, Gray Davis, epitomized this success more starkly when he was governor, demonstrating the heft of his cojones to the voters by ruthlessly turning down all appeals for clemency and mercy and by giving the prison guard union everything it asked for. Davis was a political hack, so such triangulation should not surprise; Brown, however, had principles, once, making the right's triumph that much more absolute.

Posted by: R.W. Greene | Oct 5, 2012 3:31:42 PM

Sitting on the fence is a position I thought you enjoyed Professor. Of course I agree with your suggestion for Gov. Brown .... but would hope that one day you would clear your own muddled opinions on the subject. You fail to condemn the flawed process and practice of the death penalty, and indicate a preferred retention for extreme cases .... but that is not clarity and it is not an honest reflection of the truth of the state of the death penalty as it is today. Your views are apparently oft sought, but we rarely see here a vision for the development of a process that you would regard as acceptable to you and an improvement of what we see still today in too many states. Maybe you would care to set the record straight?

Posted by: peter | Oct 5, 2012 4:24:47 PM

I'll take the Bill Otis reply w/o the commentary on tax issues.

The proposed statement is pablum. Why that is much better is unclear to me.

R.W. Greene suggests a core reason why he doesn't want to say more.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 5, 2012 4:52:30 PM

Doug --

As peter notes with the typical cordiality, you are a schmuck for failing to adopt a one-size-fits-all, snarling opposition to the death penalty.

OK, that's it, enough of this nuanced thinking crap. No golf for you this weekend until you sign peter's Amerika Stinks petition.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 5, 2012 5:02:19 PM

R.W. Greene --

"Even now, more than a quarter century after the ouster of three supreme court justices for being “soft on crime,”...

Would you mind telling us how they got ousted? Oh, right, it was by a vote of the people. How horrid! Can't let the people have a say in this!

"...no Democrat now dares approach criminal justice issues from anything other than the now-mainstream kill-'em-all-let-God-sort-'em-out stance."

The "kill-'em-all" position you posit has seen more than 10,000 murders in California since the last execution (on January 17, 2006). Thus a more accurate characterization would be "murder-'em-all" while the abolitionists take a contented snooze.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 5, 2012 5:16:23 PM

"...no Democrat now dares approach criminal justice issues from anything other than the now-mainstream kill-'em-all-let-God-sort-'em-out stance."

That statement can be conclusively disproved in one word.

Realignment.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Oct 5, 2012 7:36:31 PM

peter: I am unsure of what you seek from me in terms of "clarity," but I am happy to share some of my basic views on how I think the death penalty might be made "better." Though this topic merits more than a summary account, here are a handful of ideas for capital justice improvement:

1. Require multiple deaths/killings to be eligible for DP.
2. Create special non-judicial capital guilt commission tasked with seeking to confirm/question guilt on a date 5 years from date of capital conviction.
3. Create rule that any and all willful or reckless Brady violation in a capital case voids all death sentences imposed in that jurisdiction in that calendar year.
4. Grant capital defendants, upon capital indictment, the right to spend up to $1,000,000 on their trial defense.
5. Require that all grants of any and all capital habeas relief must come within 10 years of imposition of death sentence.

Proposal 1 should help narrow class of eligible murderers to truly worst of worst; proposal 2 should help address innocence concerns; proposal 3 should help address prosecutorial misconduct; proposal 4 should help address inadequate defense representation; proposal 5 should help address undue delays in capital appeals.

I certainly do NOT think these 5 proposals would make the death penalty perfect or even truly effective, but I do think each could help make the system better and all would get us a lot closer to a functioning and sound system of capital justice.

Posted by: Doug B. | Oct 5, 2012 10:32:34 PM

It would be far more difficult to argue against the DP if Mr. Doug's ideas were implemented. I've suggested 1 and 2 and 3 is a great idea. 5 would only be a good idea if 2 was independent enough to be similar to the Innocence Projects. Otherwise, real innocence determinations may get over shadowed by the 10 year limit of 5.

What do the pro-DPers think?

Posted by: George | Oct 5, 2012 11:28:39 PM

Vis-a-vis Doug's five-point DP proposal:

1. Among other cases, this doesn't take into account lifers who commit murder in prison or while on the lam (even if it's only one corrections officer, civilian or fellow inmate);

2. We already have juries and judges to determine guilt. Residual doubt can be resolved through executive clemency;

3. Awful idea. Reckless and willful Brady violations should result in punishment for those who commit such violations. They shouldn't result in commutations for the worst of the worst;

4. I don't get the significance of one million dollars other than its being a round number;

5. I'm pro-DP, but this proposal doesn't make any sense to me. If there were a real innocence case (the defendant actually had absolutely nothing to do with the murder(s)) that came to light after ten years, why shouldn't habeas be granted?

All in all, Doug, with all due respect, your proposals are utterly wretched.

Posted by: alpino | Oct 6, 2012 12:04:26 AM

i like the list with a few changes.

1. Require multiple deaths/killings to be eligible for DP.
change it to allow special situations. ie like killing law enforcment or in prison except for self defense

2. Create special non-judicial capital guilt commission tasked with seeking to confirm/question guilt on a date 5 years from date of capital conviction.
on this i think what he is talkign about is an expidited appeals system that would be setup to specificially check for any of the little problems in DP cases we keep seeing.

3. Create rule that any and all willful or reckless Brady violation in a capital case voids all death sentences imposed in that jurisdiction in that calendar year.
On this one the major change would be the void "all death sentences inposed" Should require the immidate removal of any prosecutor involved with a mandatory 5 year license suspension pending a bar hearing for perm ban. The only case that should be voided should the those the individual lawyers were part of. Said cases should be reviewed the the new capital-guilt comission to see if they have been shafted. If so cases should be dismissed. Any others where there is other evidence to indicate guilt. Case should result in a mandatory LWOP sentence.

4. Grant capital defendants, upon capital indictment, the right to spend up to $1,000,000 on their trial defense.
Think this is here to kind of level the playing field. Right now far too many individuals are getting caught up in capital cases with little or no funds for defense and investigation at the start while the state has basically unlimited funds. Should make the state more picky on who to charge since they would know up front the individual would have the means to fight from the beginning. Not after the conviction.

5. Require that all grants of any and all capital habeas relief must come within 10 years of imposition of death sentence.
I think this one is more for all the little gotcha cases lawyers like to issue hours before a sentence. Number 4 would end most of this hopefully as it would all be done preconviction instead of after. This one could be changed easily with the addtion of "This time limit is waved in the instance of actual proof of innocence.

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 6, 2012 1:32:33 AM

Alpino nails it.

In place of number 5, we need a limit that distinguishes innocence claims from sentence claims. Claims which go only to sentence should be limited to direct appeal and the first collateral review. Any further review should be limited to guilt phase claims coupled with the "Friendly filter" -- a substantial claim that he really is innocent. (Innocent meaning "got the wrong guy" not "too drunk to form intent.")

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Oct 6, 2012 2:08:40 AM

As some know, I'm against the death penalty, but like Brown, I am realistic about how things work. So, if we are going to have reforms while still having the death penalty, in effect in the spirit of Gregg v. Georgia, I'm game. To answer the criticisms:

1. Some three time loser (with life in prison) who commits a murder on the lam need not get the death penalty. If the person is in prison for killing someone one, it can count as more than one killing.

2. Why should residual doubt be left to the arbitrary judgment of one person? To the degree there is a clemency panel of some sort anyhow, it makes sense to specialize it for capital cases. This in effect is probably in place some places anyhow in some fashion.

3. We have exclusionary rules for a reason (just punishing offenders doesn't work -- Tom Clark, e.g., was a prosecutor, and knew this) and the 'worse of the worse' are getting life imprisonment, I assume.

4. I too don't know the significance of the number. I guess I'd need to know what the average cost is these days and hear what both sides would say are reasonable amounts.

5. To be honest, and the state is at times "at fault" (there are so many things involved, so fault is not a great word) here, ten years in a good system should be enough to carry thru the appeals. But, as noted, if there really is some sound reason to grant one, a time limit is constitutionally invalid to me as well as basically wrong.


There are various concerns in capital cases and the five proposals addresses them to some degree. I don't think a single comment will 'solve' any issue though so I appreciate the reply to the challenge.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 6, 2012 8:34:26 AM

Interesting suggestions by Doug. A few points.

1. None of this will satisfy peter, who thinks that society lacks the moral authority to impose the DP on anyone for anything, ever. There is simply no placating an absolutist, holier-than-thou position of that nature.

2. Limiting the DP to multiple murder is inadequate, for the reason alpino notes. What about child murder? Sex/torture murder? Murder of a police officer, judge or witness? Murder by a lifer previously convicted of murder? Murder in the course of a terrorist episode?

3. Requests for executive clemency already constitute the non-judicial determination of guilt/innocence questions.

4. To have willful Brady violations in Case A void all death sentences in the jurisdiction within one year is about as arbitrary and illogical as one could imagine. Why should the unarguably guilty killer in Case B get a windfall for reasons having zero to do with his case? And where did the one year come from? Why not two years or 100 days or 1000 days? If we're talking about respect for the system, introducing utter arbitrariness seems the opposite of what we ought to be doing.

Willful Brady violations of evidence arguably material to guilt or innocence would result in lifetime disbarment. It's past time for ALL the lawyers in capital cases to start telling the truth. If they won't do it out of conscience, they can do it out of fear.

5. I have no objection to the $1 million rule, with two qualifications. First, it should be a ceiling as well as a floor; the problem of excessive cost can hardly be remedied if it's just a floor. Second, any taxpayer money spent on what is later found to be a frivolous or intentionally misleading or dishonest defense will be subtracted from the next year's appropriation for the PD's office. The public should scarcely be required to foot a million bucks for a pack of lies.

6. I agree that there needs to be a time limit, except, as Kent notes, for substantial claims of factual (we-got-the-wrong-guy) innocence. A claim of that sort should be available at any time -- with the caveat that an attorney who raises such a claim without a reasonable basis be suspended from practice and required to reimburse the taxpayers for all expenses incurred in processing the frivolous claim.

Non-factual innocence claims will have a seven year time limit. There is no inherent reason whatever that these things have to drag on forever.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 6, 2012 8:40:11 AM

The "absolutist" position is the norm world-wide and practicably in much of this country (e.g., two executions other than McVeigh on federal level in nearly 50 years) though not quite the "holier than thou" level on both sides of some around here on this issue. Of course, such people can be wrong. They are on certain issues.

Posted by: Joe | Oct 6, 2012 8:58:18 AM

Joe --

"The 'absolutist' position is the norm world-wide..."

Sorry, that is just flat-out false. The world's four most populous countries all have and use the DP (China, India, the USA and Indonesia). The DP is active in the Asia, Africa, the Subcontinent, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and North America. It is scarce or non-existent only in Europe and South America.

Furthermore, an absolutist position is absolutist no matter where it is (or isn't) practiced. If in any other context you were to assert the the specific facts of the case are to have no bearing on whether we can or cannot impose punishment X, you'd be laughed out of court.

"...and practicably in much of this country (e.g., two executions other than McVeigh on federal level in nearly 50 years)..."

Some of us thought that this country included the fifty states as well as federal jurisdiction. Since Gregg reinstated the DP, there have been over 1300 executions carried out in 34 states. Thus, on average, since Gregg, there have been about three executions per month, or one every ten days. The number in recent years is slightly higher than that (lower 40's over the last few years). And although the South predominates in executions, it is by no means alone, see, e.g., Arizona, Ohio, Missouri, Indiana, Delaware, etc.

"...though not quite the 'holier than thou' level on both sides of some around here on this issue."

Nope. Peter and CCDC, for example, have a virtual monopoly on sneering, down-the-nose posts condemning as barbaric people having the audacity to disagree with them. Plus the word "Nazi" is under the exclusive ownership of the abolitionist side, a word it flings around to emphasize how Ever So Moral they are and how Ever So Evil the other side is.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 6, 2012 10:13:01 AM

A few quick responses to alpino's explanation for why he thinks my (too hasty and cursory) five proposals to improve the administration of the death penalty are "utterly wretched":

1. If a lifer is in for a killing, his second killing in prison would make him death eligible. But if someone thinks LWOP is not enough for certain terrible single killings, then my proposal won't appeal to you. But the key here is having a very easy to administer rule which seems very likely to narrow the death penalty only to the very worst of the worst (e.g., series killers, mass shooters, terrorists, family murders). Among other benefits, innocence issues seem less common in these settings.

2. If using "juries and judges to determine guilt" were adequate, we would not see so much concern about innocence. And neither courts nor governors can/will do independent investigation to assess guilt separate from the partisans. Ergo my suggestion of a non-judicial commission to reassess guilt 5 years later (and completely independent of whatever might be going on in court appeals).

3. Actual prosecutorial misconduct AND claims of such misconduct are at heart of most capital appeals. Creating an extreme exclusionary-type rule to give capital defendants a windfall (down to an LWOP sentence) should create considerable self-policing pressures among prosecutors. This admittedly crude approach to preventing prosecutorial misconduct, which would simply reduce sentences from death to LWOP, seems MUCH less arbitrary than letting some guilty go free because the constable blundered. Indeed, if/when it has been established that a state has had a prosecutor engage in an extreme Brady violation, I think it makes sense to conclude that all death sentences imposed that year are inherently suspect. (Remember, too, that most capital punishment states these days only have one or two death sentences imposed in any year.)

4. Not only is $1 million a round number, it sends a potent message to everyone that capital cases are expensive AND that society will give a capital defendant all the resources he needs up front to establish innocence or mitigating factors. Among other benefits, this approach should lead state leaders to pressure local prosecutors to limit capital indictments to truly the worst of the worst.

5. The 10 year habeas limit is designed to force all judicial appeals to move efficiently, but also with adequate time to work through all non-innocence issues. (Innocence issues are being separately handles by the non-judicial commission.)

All in all, alpino, if you really understand the impact these proposals could have in practice, and if you really wish to undercut the practical (as opposed to moral) arguments against the death penalty, then I think you ought to have different views of these proposals. As I stressed, these are not perfect solutions, but just simple means to make real improvements in a system which could be so much more fair and effective.

Posted by: Doug B. | Oct 6, 2012 10:54:12 AM

Doug --

1. The categories I mentioned (child murder, murder of a policeman, judge or witness, etc.) are also easy to understand and limited, and are exactly the sorts of murders most deserving of the DP.

2. I have no great objection to your proposed commission, but I want it to go whole hog -- to wit, I want it to examine possible erroneous acquittals. This would not result in any further legal action, on account of the DJC, but it would present a far more balanced picture of the kinds of errors the system makes. If we're going to have the truth, let's have all of it.

3. The system should be aiming to eliminate windfalls, not create more of them. We hear all the time about the danger of disrespect for the rule of law, and little would do more to create disrespect than to let a bloodsoaked killer off his sentence for reasons that had zip to do with his case.

Moreover, capital cases already receive the most exacting self-policing of any sorts of cases. They always draw the Office's most respected and experienced prosecutors.

And I am unaware of the factual basis for assuming that, if Prosecutor A is a Brady violator, Prosecutor B probably was as well. Moreover, even if there were a basis for that assumption, why should we settle for assumptions? Better to base any revision of the sentence on specific facts.

I also disagree that Brady violations are the No. 1 allegation in capital appeals. It seems to me that it's IAC. Do you propose any self-policing by the defense bar when IAC is found?

4. As I said, I have no real problem with the $1,000,000 figure, so long as we understand that that is a ceiling and not just a floor, and so long as the taxpayers get a refund of some kind if it is determined that the defense lawyer used the dough to present a false, misleading, vexatious or bad faith defense. The taxpayers are on the hook for enough legitimate stuff, and shouldn't be on the hook for any of that.

5. Ten years is too much. As a courtroom lawyer for nearly twenty years in (sometimes) complex criminal cases, I can tell you that, if the system is determined to get the job done, it doesn't take anywhere close to ten years.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 6, 2012 11:31:01 AM

Juries are becoming more and more reluctant to impose death.


On September 27, 2012, a federal jury in Puerto Rico rejected the death penalty for Edison Burgos Montes, who was convicted in August of the murder of his girlfriend in 2005. The jury deliberated for two days before sentencing Montes to life in prison for this drug-related crime. Puerto Rico's constitution forbids capital punishment, but U.S. prosecutors can seek the death penalty under federal law. This is the fourth capital case tried by U.S. authorities since the federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988. None of the cases has resulted in a death sentence. Governor Luis Fortuno and Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico's sole representative to the U.S. Congress, spoke out recently against the death penalty. In addition, one of the candidates for governor, Senator Alejandro Garcia Padilla, promised to try to stop the use of the federal death penalty for Puerto Rico residents. There also have been popular demonstrations against this use of the death penalty in the Commonwealth.

Posted by: anon16 | Oct 6, 2012 8:46:20 PM

Without knowing anything about Jerry Brown, is he a lawyer? Did he attend an Ivy League school or law school?

If the answers are, yes, the best word is "rent seeking." This is a stealthy form of robbery of the taxpayer at the point of a gun, and is a form of bad faith. it should be carefully defined in statute and criminalized.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 6, 2012 10:32:38 PM

Everyone here knows how much I love the lawyers. So this criticism is from disappointment and the desire to provide constructive criticism.

Prof. Berman is proposing procedure to limit procedure. Procedure will be used to attack his procedure to limit procedure. None has any external validation, for example, a decrease in crime from it rather than from obesity, sex education bringing the Roman Orgy lifestyle down to age 12, and video addiction. Our criminals are getting just too fat to get off the couch.

Crime cannot be ended until the lawyer is removed from policy making, because an irremediable conflict of interest. The drop in crime following the Sentencing Guidelines was followed by actual lawyer unemployment. The CCE hierarchy could not allow that, and eliminated mandatory guidelines, under the leadership of the most conservative Justice on the Court. There is no way to remove the lawyer from policy power positions except by killing the hierarchy. It is in insurrection against the Constitution, and mass arrest, trials, and summary executions have full legal, moral, economic, and policy justification. This hierarchy is the proximate cause of every single social pathology, and economic difficulty. Name one, and a lawyer has a regulation causing it or preventing its remedy.

After this hierarchy is gone, another will replace it. The same should find them if they repeat the errors of their prior one.

Death is not a punishment. It cannot be used to balance the scales of damage. It is illegal to use as a general deterrent.

It is a way to get rid of a person who has exhausted his welcome on earth by causing enough damage. It should apply to economic crime since money is life. Every penny generated came from the labor of someone's lifetime. Destroy $6 million in value, and you have assassinated an economic person. You should get the death penalty. Each lawyer now destroys $1 million in economic value, each year alive. The rule of law has great value, and should generate more wealth, instead of being disruptive and destructive.

Laws and their enforcement should be limited to the extremes of necessity. Parents and churches, and local culture should raise kids, not government. Corporal punishment is effective and cheap. It is not abuse.

123D is for the repeat violent offender, not just for the murderer. Keep the arithmetic simple. Because such criminals commit hundreds of crimes a year, we are getting rid of a bad guy. The latest murder or third violent offense is a pretext to kill him to put the veneer of procedural fairness. However, the early execution of a violent 17 year old will likely prevent 10,000 violent crimes. It will save the cost of incarceration for 30 years. And as a bonus, it may intimidate the lest violent criminal.

Only the incompetent and rent seeking lawyer hierarchy stands between the nation and a crime free environment. They have got to go.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 7, 2012 7:55:13 AM

anon16 --

I don't know that it moves the ball that much to use the Puerto Rican experience to support the proposition that Americans are using the DP less and less, since Puerto Rico is not among the 50 states or the federal government. It's similar to using the DP's history in American Samoa, which I will happily concede is quite skimpy, if there is any.

Among American states, executions are up this year and last year in four states that I know off the top of my head, Oklahoma, Arizona, Florida and Mississippi.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 7, 2012 10:26:57 AM

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