Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Death Penalty: Marvin vs. Martin...

No, I am not talking about Warner Brother's Marvin the Martian, but yesterday's hearing about the possible demise of the death penalty in Maryland did have me wondering. Just who would a (CASA-supported?) alien meet if he asked us to take him to our leader? Would it be Martin O'Malley, or Marvin Mandel?

Governor O'Malley got loads of press yesterday for his testimony in favor of sending the death penalty to the gas chamber, but another Governor testified in favor of keeping it as a final sanction against the most vermin-like murderers in our midst. His story needs telling as well.

After Martin asked us to not care about retribution or fairness to victims, Marvin talked about the need for the final option to remain a tool for Justice. The Ex-Governor recounted going to the jail when prisoners had taken over and threatened the life of the guards in the tower. Against the wishes of others, he went to talk to the prisoners. I say talk, not to merely "hear them out". He gave them 3 minutes, they started with their demands, and he told them they had only 2 left. He would release the dogs on them if they did not free the guards. Now note that this was during a time when the Supreme Court had ruled against the Death Penalty, before we reinstated a court-approved version of it. The prisoners asked why should they care about killing the guards, they were already sentenced to death. The no-nonsense Governor at the time said if they killed the guards he would call a special session the next day and pass a death penalty law just for them. They let the guards go. Years later Mandel would meet a man who had been trying to see him, to thank him for saving his grandfather, a guard in that tower.

Another instance that Governor Marvin Mandel recounted was seeing a prisoner in his cell, who complained that they never let him out, even for exercise. Mandel talked to the Warden, who informed him that the prisoner was not allowed out because he would kill the first person he got hold of. Gov. Marvin went back to the cell, staying further away from the inmate this time, and asked the prisoner if this was true. The prisoner acknowledged that yes, he would kill the first person he could.

Former Governor Mandel also talked about a Judge he appointed who was against the death penalty. The Judge changed his tune when he had a case that was very horrific.

Say what you want about Marvin Mandel's history, but in this case I wish he were still maintaining an office on the second floor of the State House. On this issue, he is more a leader than Marty, who is evidently both afraid to sign a death warrant, and also afraid to not kill those on death row. You see, if the current Governor doesn't carry out his duty he may get blamed if they kill again. Doing away with the death penalty, he can blame it on the legislature if an inmate kills a guard, or another prisoner, or if they escape to murder the public. Abolishing the death penalty is the easy way out for him, but have we ever known him to really do the hard things his job requires? Take me to your leader... indeed!



dudleysharp said...

The Death Penalty:More Protection for Innocents
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below

Often, the death penalty dialogue gravitates to the subject of innocents at risk of execution. Seldom is a more common problem reviewed. That is, how innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.

Enhanced Due Process

No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.

Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed.

That is. logically, conclusive.

Enhanced Incapacitation

To state the blatantly clear, living murderers, in prison, after release or escape, are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers.

Although an obvious truism, it is surprising how often folks overlook the enhanced incapacitation benefits of the death penalty over incarceration.

There are a few absolutes when it comes to Life Without Parole. The legislature can lessen sentences, retroactively, and the executive branch can lessen any individual sentence.

Enhanced Deterrence

16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses, find for death penalty deterrence.

A surprise? No.

Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.

Some believe that all studies with contrary findings negate those 16 studies. They don't. Studies which don't find for deterrence don't say no one is deterred, but that they couldn't measure those deterred.

What prospect of a negative outcome doesn't deter some? There isn't one . . . although committed anti death penalty folk may say the death penalty is the only one.

However, the premier anti death penalty scholar accepts it as a given that the death penalty is a deterrent, but does not believe it to be a greater deterrent than a life sentence. Yet, the evidence is compelling and un refuted that death is feared more than life.

Enhanced Fear

Some death penalty opponents argue against death penalty deterrence, stating that it's a harsher penalty to be locked up without any possibility of getting out.

Reality paints a very different picture.

What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.

What percentage of convicted capital murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.

What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment.

This is not, even remotely, in dispute.

What of that more rational group, the potential murderers who choose not to murder, is it likely that they, like most of us, fear death more than life?

Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.

Furthermore, history tells us that lifers have many ways to get out: Pardon, commutation, escape, clerical error, change in the law, etc.

In choosing to end the death penalty, or in choosing not implement it, some have chosen to spare murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives.

Furthermore, possibly we have sentenced 25 actually innocent people to death since 1973, or 0.3% of those so sentenced. Those have all been released upon post conviction review. The anti death penalty claims, that the numbers are significantly higher, are a fraud, easily discoverable by fact checking.

The innocents deception of death penalty opponents has been getting exposure for many years. Even the behemoth of anti death penalty newspapers, The New York Times, has recognized that deception.

To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row . . . (1) This when death penalty opponents were claiming the release of 119 "innocents" from death row. Death penalty opponents never required actual innocence in order for cases to be added to their "exonerated" or "innocents" list. They simply invented their own definitions for exonerated and innocent and deceptively shoe horned large numbers of inmates into those definitions - something easily discovered with fact checking.

There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.

If we accept that the best predictor of future performance is past performance, we can, reasonably, conclude that the DNA cases will be excluded prior to trial, and that for the next 8000 death sentences, that we will experience a 99.8% accuracy rate in actual guilt convictions. This improved accuracy rate does not include the many additional safeguards that have been added to the system, over and above DNA testing.

Of all the government programs in the world, that put innocents at risk, is there one with a safer record and with greater protections than the US death penalty?


Full report -All Innocence Issues: The Death Penalty, upon request.

Full report - The Death Penalty as a Deterrent, upon request

(1) The Death of Innocents: A Reasonable Doubt,
New York Times Book Review, p 29, 1/23/05, Adam Liptak,
national legal correspondent for The NY Times

copyright 2007-2009, Dudley Sharp
Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part, is approved with proper attribution.

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail 713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas

Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS, VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

Pro death penalty sites (Sweden)

Anonymous said...

Gubernatorial sophistry at its most oafish? O'Malley sez in e-mail today to state residents:

"As the mayor of the City of Baltimore, I witnessed horrendous crimes that called out for justice. The death penalty was on the books -- and did absolutely nothing to prevent these awful crimes.

Last year, we came together as One Maryland to achieve the second largest reduction in homicides since 1985. The death penalty was on the books -- and did absolutely nothing to prevent these awful crimes or help us reduce violent crime by 40 percent."

So the death penalty did nothing to prevent horrendous crimes in Baltimore City (where Capital prosecutions essentially never occur) but did reduce homicides statewide by record-setting numbers? Who is writing for this knucklehead?