Capital Punishment

Maher, Steve (SD-MS) SMAHER at GI.COM
Wed Feb 4 14:39:00 MST 1998

A list member cited:
>When comparisons are made between states with the death penalty and
>states without, the majority of death penalty states show murder rates
>higher than non-death penalty states. The average murder rate per 100,000
>population in 1994 among death penalty states was 8.0, the average
>murder rate among non-death penalty states was only 4.4. A look at
>neighboring death penalty and non-death penalty states show similar
>trends. Death penalty states usually have a higher murder rate than their
>neighboring non-death penalty states.
>A survey of experts from the American Society of Criminology, the Academy
>of Criminal Justice Sciences, and the Law and Society Association showed
>that the overwhelming majority did not believe that the death penalty is
>a proven deterrent to homicide. Over 80% believe the existing
>research fails to support a deterrence justification for the death
>penalty. Similarly, over 75% of those polled do not believe that
>increasing the number of executions, or decreasing the time spent on death
>row before execution, would produce a general deterrent effect. (M.
>Radelet and R. Akers, Deterrence and the Death Penalty ? The Views of the
>Experts, 1995)

These "studies" are based on an obvious and flagrant flaw: the notion that
any state in the US "has the death penalty".

After the Supreme Court re-legalized the Death Penalty (1976, I believe),
some states reinstated their death penalties. As you noted, these were
the states that had higher crime rates... that's WHY they reinstated
their Death Penalties... on paper. But, despite the thousands of murders
they were experiencing, these so-called death penalty states used their
CP less than a dozen times... and some of them never used it at all.

The so-called "Death Penalty States"  actually began executing fewer
than one-quarter of one percent of their murderers, letting the rest
live out their lives in jail, and even letting some go. This internet
site you cited, somehow forgot to mention that they were basing their
conclusions on something completely nonexistent, for all practical
purposes. Why this site bills itself as a "Death Penalty Information
Site" is baffling, given their deliberate distortion of fact and careful
cookbooking of what fact they do allow in.

The "Death Penalty" of those states which technically put it back on
their books, was no different from states which had no death penalty
at all-- except for a VERY rare implementation, which still made murder
a less-hazardous pastime (for the murderer) than driving the family
sedan on a moderately rainy day.

One might as well compare a field full of thousands of mice, with a
similar field after a single cat has been let loose for exactly one
minute and then removed. A person who concludes that cats have no effect
on mice, is making the same mistake that you (and that agenda-driven
web site) are-- especially when he "forgets" that the second field
started with more mice than the first one. What a surprise, that the
field that "had the Cat Penalty" didn't experience any significant
decline in mice! And, in fact, it wound up with more mice than the
"non-Cat-Penalty" field!

It's not because cats aren't effective in "reducing" mice. In fact, they
are VERY effective, if you use them in more than a small, token way. The
same is true for use of the Death Penalty against murderers. But, the
hysterical resistance of Death Penalty opponents, and the active
concealment of important facts from the people involved, prevents more
than such token use-- and so prevents any useful demonstrations of its

The CP foes consider this a win-win situation: the Death Penalty is almost
never used, and the truth about its effectiveness is well concealed-- both
favorable results, they believe. The fact that the populace behind them,
is drowning in mice (or murders), apparently does not concern them-- they
have achieved their purpose, and kept their own hands clean of such messy
things as death and terror.

The threat of IMMEDIATE, CERTAIN death in response to murder (a practical
impossibility in most cases, of course) is a very effective deterrent to
murder and other such horrible crimes. If a criminal is about to plunge the
knife into his victim (or pull the trigger or whatever), and suddenly looks
up to see a uniformed policeman six feet away with his service revolver
pointed between the criminal's eyes, how many criminals would go ahead
and commit their murder, rather than surrender or try to escape? A few
truly insane ones might, but the vast majority would decide not to
commit murder-- they would be deterred.

It's impossible to have a cop always there, of course, and not even a good
idea due to privacy concerns and the fact that murders usually aren't being
committed in any given time and place. But the effect of an increased threat
of death, is clear.

And, in the only locale in the United States where the threat of death upon
murderers is increasing (Texas), though it is still quite small... the
decreasing incidence of murder merits close inspection.

That's far more than the CP opponents want to give it, of course--
establishment of a connection would blow their whole agenda, which
obviously is NOT to reduce the number of murders. Note that in my
recent quest for more data, I have received zero data, but four
conclusions that the data would not support use of CP. I love it when
these people reveal themselves so transparently...  ;)

REAL evidence (not the kind used by that hysteria-pushing web site)
indicates that CP may have a deterrent effect on murderers. More study
is obviously needed-- and is just as obviously abhorrent to certain
people who don't want their conclusions disturbed by facts.

Steve Maher


U.S. Murders and executions:
YEAR          1988   1989   1990   1991   1992   1993   1994   1995
US MURDERS  20,700 21,500 23,400 24,700 23,800 24,500 23,300 21,600
EXECUTIONS      11     16     23     14     31     38     31     56
% Executed  0.053% 0.074% 0.098% 0.056% 0.130% 0.155% 0.133% 0.259%

TEXAS Murders and executions:
(Murder rate is Murders per 100,000 population)
YEAR:           1990  1991  1992  1993  1994  1995
MURDER RATE:    14.1  15.3              11.0   9.0
NO. EXECUTIONS:          5    12    17    14    19

Figures from Statistical Abstract of the United States, various years
from 1990 thru 1997. U.S. Dept. of Commerce.

More information about the Rushtalk mailing list