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November 11, 2019


Professor Kennedy’s blog today raises the age old issue of capital punishment, citing the  views of police chiefs, research showing many on death row who were released when the real killers were found etc. Most of my fellow contributors to her blog are opposed to capital punishment, as am I, but on varying grounds. I answered her blog, slightly edited, as follows.

I have been opposed to the death penalty most of my life on grounds that it is hypocritical for the state to engage in the same conduct it condemns when it kills people who have killed other people. I also think an argument can be made that a sentence of life without parole is worse than execution, but whatever, I think the state should be held to higher ethical grounds than those of its murdering citizens since in any event and as noted by the police chiefs, death penalty statutes are not a deterrent since more murders are committed in states that execute than those that do not.

While I carry no water for the private prison industry, I think the recent blanket release of thousands of felons, some dangerous, has nothing to do with philosophy and a lot to do with saving money, and considering the wave of recidivism likely to occur since the release bar has been lowered, I question whether we are even going to save any money by such blanket release in view of an impending mini-wave of crime and its costs resulting from such release, and not to mention the pain and distress new victims will suffer, victims who would otherwise not have been victimized but for this “change in policy” that put thousands of felons on the street. Parole at what costs?

I could (but won’t) go into a discussion of overworked public defenders anxious to cop a plea with the prosecution and judges who perennially complain of crowded dockets, but will leave that to non-lawyers’ imagination. Murder trials and their invariable appeals take time and effort, both in short supply among public defenders and trial courts. Suffice it to say here that I think it can be argued that such problems when operating in tandem likely contribute to increased time laid on hapless defendants at the upper level of sentencing guidelines under the guise of judicial discretion.       GERALD         E

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