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September 9, 2014

Pitching argument to pitch death penalty as failed government policy

Daniel LaChance has this notable new op-ed in today's New York Times headlined "What Will Doom the Death Penalty: Capital Punishment, Another Failed Government Program?". Here are excerpts:

To opponents of the death penalty, recent accounts of botched executions and DNA-based exonerations of death-row prisoners have revived hope that judges and voters will finally see capital punishment for what it is: an intolerable affront to human dignity.

But while such optimism is understandable, it is misplaced....

[F]ederal oversight of capital cases ..., more than wrongful convictions and botched executions, is what is distinctive about the contemporary American death penalty.  New layers of appeals and new issues to litigate at both the state and federal levels meant that inmates put to death in 2012 had waited an average of almost 16 years for their execution date.  The deeply unsatisfying, decades-long limbo that follows a death sentence today is without precedent.  The 3,054 men and women languishing on the nation’s death rows have become the unwitting cast of a never-ending production of “Waiting for Godot.”...

Efforts to remedy the problem by reforming the appellate process have been unsuccessful. In 1996, when the average stay on death row was approaching 11 years, Congress enacted legislation restricting death-row inmates’ access to federal courts, in order to speed up executions.  But it didn’t work; since then, the time between sentencing and execution has grown by over 50 percent.

The problem, it turns out, isn’t foot-dragging by defense lawyers or bleeding-heart judges. It’s money.  In California, for instance, the low wages paid by the state to qualified lawyers who take on indigent inmates’ appeals have meant that there aren’t enough lawyers willing to do the work.  Inmates wait an average of three to five years after sentencing for a government-appointed lawyer to handle their appeal.  And that’s just the beginning of a process — sometimes lasting 25 years or more — that a federal judge recently determined was so protracted that it made capital punishment in California unconstitutionally cruel and unusual....

As depressing as it may be to abolitionists driven by a commitment to human rights, Americans, most of whom are white and live above the poverty line, find it hard to sympathize with members of an indigent, mostly minority death-row population who have been convicted of horrible crimes.  Preaching to the congregation rather than the choir, then, ought to focus on the failure of capital punishment to live up to the promise of retributive justice it once held.

Casual supporters of the death penalty can be made to recognize that the death penalty has become inextricably mired in the very bureaucracy and legalism it was once supposed to transcend, and that the only solutions to the problem — an elimination of appellate lawyers for death-row inmates or a financial bailout — are unlikely to be legal or feasible.

Resources for fighting the death penalty are scarce, and for too long, abolitionists have spent them appealing to the humanistic ideals they wished most Americans shared, instead of one they actually do: distrust of government.  Arguing that the death penalty is an affront to human dignity just doesn’t work.  But portraying it as another failed government program just might.

September 9, 2014 at 10:12 AM | Permalink


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This is a silly, unfair article, totally in bad faith by a weasel abolitionist. Yes, let's scam the public that hates incompetent government, and say the death penalty is a form of failed government.

I tend to agree about its failure. The failure stems from obstruction by the vile rent seeking weasels. It stems from its underdosing, delayed dosing, expensive dosing. Yet I do not know if the public could support thousands of summary executions a year, to make it effective as a remedy of incapacitation. I also think it should be preserved as a remedy to the Inquisition 2.0 now ongoing by the vile lawyer hierarchy.

Here is the best alternative. Arm and immunize the public. Require a duty to kill at the scene of all violent crime. Let the death penalty be immediate, ubiquitous, and immunized. Immunity always grows an activity, and the super liability for violent crime will stop nearly all crime in days.

Crazy? Unprecedented? No. Come rob a convenience store in my lawyer residential neighborhood. Three police cars are there in 2 minutes. They administer the death penalty at the scene. No excessive force litigation in this area, just a few miles from one of the most violent ghettos in the nation. Naturally only a fatherless, drop out minority kid will have failed to get the memo, so the death penalty is racially skewed here too. Why? Because minority members are more violent, due to the bastardy rate and the culture of undervaluing minority victims. Here shop liftintg makes the papers because crime is very rare. Why can't the entire nation, especially the poor have what lawyers grant for themselves? Now where the lawyers work? It is like a Fallujah.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 9, 2014 11:11:55 AM

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