Saturday, December 19, 2009

Death Penalty in Review - 2009

The New York Times reports on a fascinating phenomenon taking place in the administration of capital punishment.

Death Sentences Dropped, but Executions Rose in ’09

More death row convicts were executed in the United States this year than last, but juries continue to grow more wary of capital punishment, according to a new report.

Death sentences handed down by judges and juries in 2009 continued a trend of decline for seven years in a row, with 106 projected for the year. That level is down two-thirds from a peak of 328 in 1994, according to the report being released Friday by the Death Penalty Information Center, a research organization that opposes capital punishment.

“This entire decade has been marked by a declining use of the death penalty,” said Richard Dieter, the executive director of the group.

It must mean that each year there are fewer people on death row than the year below. But killing them off doesn't seem like the right way to do it. If the use of capital punishment is declining as reflected by the sentences handed down, the incidents of carrying out those sentences should also decline. Hopefully we're heading towards abolition and these guys who are being executed in increasing numbers won't be around to have their sentences changed to life without parole.

The sentencing drop was most striking in Texas, which averaged 34 death sentences a year in the 1990s and had 9 this year. Vic Wisner, a former assistant district attorney in Houston, said a “constant media drumbeat” about suspect convictions and exonerations “has really changed the attitude of jurors.”

Whatever the reason for the sentencing drop in Texas, doesn't the fact that it went from 34 to 9 indicate that some of those 34 got a bad deal? Isn't that a sort of proof in and of itself? If in 2009, the juries decided in 25 or so capital cases that a life sentence was the right punishment, what does that say about the ones who received the death penalty before?

I say the administration of capital punishment is so broken it should be halted immediately.

What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.


  1. Ah, the Dealth Penalty card once again. No doubt, Mike, your hair-trigger, pro-gunner will be walloping you with this thread. Surely the will cite data which 'proves' that the death penalty 'deters' crime. And all that nonsense.

    The United States and its death penalty puts us in a unique set of similar mindset nations, mostly in Africa and southern Asia. States like Botswana, Ethiopia, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, China, Pakistan and North Korea.

    Nice set of like-minded folks. Democracies one and all.

    Only jackasses would set America with that set of barbarians.

  2. I agree with you, but there is that desire for retribution that you see in the gun control debates. People believe in an "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" as being justice.

    Additionally, there is little interest in dealing with the roots of crime: poverty, education, mental illness, and so on.

    Instead, people would rather spend an exorbitant amount of money on the effects of crime rather than prevention.

  3. mud-rake, ever notice most of the people who support the death penalty think the US is a Christian nation?

  4. Yes I have and not only that, but they think of themselves as 'pro-life' as well. How's that for dumbass?

  5. Yeah, that's a great group, pro-life people in favor of the death penalty. I'd bet they have plenty of biblical justification for it too. Some of our gun enthisiasts have written a lot about the bible justifying their guns. They're probably all members of the same groups.

  6. They are indeed part of the same group.

    During my on and off residency in the WDC area, I was there for a Roe v. Wade protest. One of the pro-lifers made a comment about the Civil War memorial infront of the Capital "that was a great war".

    I felt like adding: "yes, think of all the senseless deaths."

    Antietam gave me the same vibe as Waterloo does with all the carnage that happened in those battles.

  7. Mikeb: "Yeah, that's a great group, pro-life people in favor of the death penalty."

    Whereas I am pro-choice, regarding both abortion and gun ownership.

  8. FishyJay, I guess you're definitely more consistent than I am. I'm pro-choice on abortion and for gun control.

  9. How inconsistent of you MikeB.

    You're both anti-choice and pro-choice.

  10. I am for gun control.
    I am against capital punishment.
    I am for women's choice to abort.
    I'm against the war in Afghanistan.
    I like Frank Zappa more and more.
    I live in Italy but consider myself American.

    Are these things inconsistent or incompatible?