September 8, 2011

"Perry shows no remorse, not even a tiny smidgen of reflection, especially when we know for certain that he signed the death warrant for an innocent man."

Writes Andrew Sullivan, live-blogging last night's debate.

Let's look at the transcript:
[BRIAN] WILLIAMS: Governor Perry, a question about Texas. Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times. Have you...

Okay, the applause interruption really does look bad. But that's not Perry.
Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?
So... "might have been innocent." Where is the information that Texas "for certain" executed "an innocent man"? I know Perry didn't "sign the death warrant," because — pay attention, Andrew Sullivan — and I'm quoting the Washington Post here: "Decisions to seek the death penalty are made by local prosecutors. Unlike in some states, the governor does not sign death warrants or set execution dates." And I'm not seeing any information in that recent article about the execution of a man known to be innocent. So what is Sullivan posturing about?

Here's Perry's answer:
PERRY: No, sir. I've never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place of which -- when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States, if that's required.

But in the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you're involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed.

WILLIAMS: What do you make of...

This time the applause is fine. Perry has shown respect for the legal process and for the scope of his role as governor. He's expressed support for the death penalty in an articulate and circumspect way, and most Americans do support the death penalty. He was asked to confess that he agonizes about the possibility of mistakes, and he gave a sober — not emotive — response that refers to the safeguards of the legal process and the proportionality of the punishment.
WILLIAMS: What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?
Again, Williams —skillfully — lures Perry into the realm of emotion. Perhaps he's looking for a big moment, perhaps something like what happened to Michael Dukakis in the second presidential debate in 1988. Dukakis was against the death penalty, and the question asked by Bernard Shaw invited him to show some passion and fire about crime — what if your wife were raped and murdered? — and Dukakis stayed doggedly on his track, expressing coolly rational rejection of the death penalty.

In last night's debate, Perry declined the invitation to show passion about death — the death of the convicted murderer — and, like Dukakis, he stayed coolly rational. In Sullivan's words, he "shows no remorse" or "reflection" — but he did show reflection, reflection about the soundness of the system of justice. He didn't show remorse. Remorse is what you ask a criminal to show. It was fine for Perry not to be lured into displaying angst over executions. But then I thought it was fine for Dukakis to keep from getting sidetracked by Shaw's melodramatic hypothetical. All we're talking about is the public's response to the candidate and the journalist's effort to create excitement. The difference is, most Americans support the death penalty, and they don't need elaborate expressions about the deep significance of death when it's the death of a convicted murderer.

Perry does well at this point:
PERRY: I think Americans understand justice. I think Americans are clearly, in the vast majority of -- of cases, supportive of capital punishment. When you have committed heinous crimes against our citizens -- and it's a state-by-state issue, but in the state of Texas, our citizens have made that decision, and they made it clear, and they don't want you to commit those crimes against our citizens. And if you do, you will face the ultimate justice.
That's the answer, plainly and appropriately stated. Sullivan's straining to use this to portray Perry as evil is — to my mind — and I oppose the death penalty — demagoguery.


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Revenant said...

You're factually wrong, and you're spreading misinformation, when you assert that Perry could have blocked Willingham's execution.

Ok, Beldar; Perry refused to grant an innocent man thirty additional days of life in which to seek justice.

Happy now?

Chase said...

Ouch Rev! Schooled by Beldar!

(Me too - I know way less than you!)

phx said...

Which btw also makes its deterrent effect negligible.

Beldar said...

It's just amazing to me how many people can read something in the New Yorker and think, "Wow, from reading this one article, I now know more about this case than any of the people who prosecuted it, or decided it, or reviewed those decisions during the subsequent years of appeals and briefs that ran to thousands of pages!"

Why bother to sleep at a Holiday Inn Express, when you can be an instant expert by believing a one-sided presentation from the New Yorker?

Beldar said...

Revenant, he hadn't met the criteria for a stay, and nothing that happened during those 30 additional days would have mattered, except that justice for Willingham's victims would have been delayed that much longer.

You believe he was innocent; I don't. Regardless of your belief or mine, however, according to the law after he received all the legal process he was due, he was definitely guilty.

Nothing Rick Perry did or could have done changed or affected that. You're barking really really passionately -- up the wrong tree.

The Unknown Pundit said...

If it's just a numbers game, then better that an occasional 'innocent' person die, than 10 guilty people go free and, given a conservative 30% recidivism rate, 3 additional 'innocent' victims be created - names to be determined later.

I think you’re being sarcastic, but unfortunately, I’ve read comments over the years from some folks who really do believe that it’s better to mistakenly punish a few innocent people so as to lower the risk of letting a truly guilty person escape punishment.

I always ask those people holding that view if they would be willing to take one for the team and be that innocent person unjustly punished. Oddly, no one as yet has answered in the affirmative.

Seven Machos said...

according to the law after he received all the legal process he was due

It simply was not enough. The man was murdered and the best argument you can make is that you think he is guilty and that he got due process. That is grossly insufficient. That is not justice.

Why you cannot cede that we can and should improve our death penalty jurisprudence is baffling to me.

Beldar said...

@ Revenant: You write: "Ok, Beldar; Perry refused to grant an innocent man thirty additional days of life in which to seek justice."

No sir or ma'am, to be factually accurate, your statement would have to read:

Perry determined that a convicted defendant -- one whose conviction had been affirmed and then left undisturbed by every court that had reviewed it, most of them multiple times, including the U.S. Supreme Court, despite his continuing claims of innocence -- had not met the criteria for the very limited 30-day stay which Perry had the theoretical authority to grant," so the execution went forward as scheduled by the State and as approved by those courts.

Because that's what actually happened. That's the truth.

Seven Machos said...

Roesch -- That's a good point about making the death penalty an issue in order to improve it. That's got to happen. I am rather skeptical that the reason the chattering class is making it an issue is to all the sudden make these absolutely necessary improvements.

Henry said...

@Beldar -- I'm afraid I don't have your faith in the system. The number of exonerations speaks against you. Like Seven Machos I think we need a much higher standard of proof.

I am also disturbed by the misuse of expert evidence -- either by experts biased toward a particular outcome or by experts who are incompetent. I don't know how wide-spread expert-witness-incompetence is, but there should be none.

This is the data I've found:

1266 executions 1976 - 2011.
138 exonerations 1973 - 2010.

Clearly some exonerations show the system working: retrial granted and either charges dropped or not guilty verdict returned.

Other exonerations were by pardon.

But when 1 out of 10 death penalty convictions get overturned, I don't see how you can feel confident that the other 9 out of 10 are rock-solid.

garage mahal said...

Does that mean that support for the prison system is gruesome?

No, but it's a big leap to executing someone, when he or she may be able to mount a defense or find some exonerating evidence while behind bars.

Pogo said...

Obama signed the death warrant for the US economy.

He also signed the death warrant for Bin Laden.

Where are the tears?

Alex said...

The idea of the state executing it's citizens is fucking horrific.

No the idea of liberals letting filthy murderers go free in the 60s-70s was fucking horrific. Oh wait, it wasn't an idea it happened.

garage mahal said...

Awesome reasoning.

"What about......!!!!!"

Hagar said...

I am against the death penalty, not on any moral or humanitarian grounds, but simply because we refuse to take it seriously.

No "stricter standards of proof," or whatever, is going to improve matters as long as the culture permits police and prosecutors to fake evidence because they "know he's guilty," and there is way too much of that going on.

Also that they, and the legislators, respond to the media, which are always ready to whip up a lynch mob in any high profile case.

Not to mention the media's conception of Justice = Revenge.
The State's interest should be in keeping the peace, not in seeking revenge on either its own or the victim's behalf.

Kirby Olson said...

If more people are killed then it will be more equal. Vote for Perry.

I liked something Bachmann said that isn't getting much attention. she said all the government oversight now could be done privately.

Like the Standard & Poor's for ranking of country by country credit, we could have a Consumer's Report for many things. This would mean we could get rid of the Food & Drug administration for instance.

There would be a lot more fraud and death at first but then private regulatory commissions would step in, and if they did their job, people would buy into them, and hence there would be more good jobs in the economy.


slarrow said...

Henry, out of curiosity, how do you define "exoneration"? To my mind, that means "the guilty was found to be innocent". It does not mean "there was a flaw in the process that invalidates the prior guilty plea". Do your numbers only include the first sense, or do they include the second sense also?

Alex said...

But when 1 out of 10 death penalty convictions get overturned, I don't see how you can feel confident that the other 9 out of 10 are rock-solid.

I prefer to err on the side of "fry em". Yeah I literally get my right-wing rocks off when I read about an execution. Orgasm.

Alex said...

Not to mention the media's conception of Justice = Revenge.
The State's interest should be in keeping the peace, not in seeking revenge on either its own or the victim's behalf.

You obviously have a different conception of the State then I do. Ever hear of frontier justice? We used to have hangin' judges out in Oklahoma territory...

Bruce said...


I just want to say I appreciate the time you've taken to add a lot of factual information to this discussion. Certainly some of what you've written is opinion (entirely appropriate), but you've also added a lot of concrete facts about the entire process in Texas, and I for one found that very valuable.

So thank you!

jr565 said...

If there is a state that has the death penalty and if a defendant is tried in court and a jury of his peers finds him guilty, who is the governor to deny justice as determined by the state?
The only issue I'd have would be if someone came to the governor with evidence exonerating someone who was about to die and he refused to not commute the sentence, or at the very least delay, pending a new hearing.

Cedarford said...

Recall that the HIV-riddled brain of Andrew Sullivan was QUITE fine, even frothing at the mouth strident - about going in and "bringing justice" to the killers of 9/11 EVEN if that meant INNOCENT little babies of Al Qaeda and their Talibani hosts might be killed accidentally.

Versus Andrew saying we could retaliate only if we could guarantee that only 100% guilty terrorists were killed.

Even leftists admit the "state power to kill" they dishonestly say must never be used "lest a single innocent person is killed by the state" somehow doesn't work the same way in war.

But it could!

We could have done nothing after 9/11, claiming that there was no way the death penalty we wished to apply on the killers was not foolproof in being meted out. We could have gone in with cops and warrants and lawyers instead of military and only imposed jail time, no death penalty, after several thousand civilian trials in NYC for 9/11 and for the cops and lawyers the Islamoids killed
in the attempt to arrest them or appraise them of their full due process rights.

We also, besides war, accept that:

1. State licensed medical people directly or indirectly contribute to 95,000 deaths in America each year by medical misadventure.

2. We allow, and do not ban, many surgeries not needed to save life..just hopefully give a better quality of life against the 10% to 0.02% chance the person will die accidentally.

Somehow, though the liberal propaganda is that a single truly innocent person killed by Powers of the State would be a total game-changer and the risk of that is SO PROFOUND that the only thing to do is put the killer/raper of 6 kids in the same jail cell as a 3-time loser burglar sentenced to the same life sentence and the same conditions.
Meanwhile, the liberals are NOT out demanding the state de-license elective surgeries and shut down hospitals on accidental deaths. Or demanding the military stop any war where "an innocent could be killed by Our State Power" - or ordering troops on training missions that could risk "killing innocent soldiers".

Pogo said...

Armchair defenders have a history of getting it wrong.

WF Buckley and Norman Mailer were both hoodwinked by killers who'd convinced them of their innocence.

The New Yorker article was all one-sided. The Innocence Project similarly fights only for the convicted and can't seem to find one guilty guy in prison. I have yet to read a dispassionate review of the Willingham case, so I discount most opinions of it.

Perry answered well.
It was a bullshit lefty question.

jr565 said...

Seven Machos wrote:
A decent cross examination by a competent defense attorney would have eviscerated the prosecution. A judge who was not an idiot would never have allowed the testimony.

So how are you, or more importantly the board determining whether to rehear someones case, determining whether someone is a competent defense attorney? What metric are they going to use to get that result, and how many other people can similarly claim they had horrible legal counsel? Should they get retried as well?
The sad thing, is the guy might be innocent ultimately. Only, saying someone had bad counsel is not a realistic basis on which to overturn someone's conviction.
Similarly, should we retry people if the prosecution is incompetent and was eviscerated by the defense? i.e. the OJ prosecutors? How many bites at the apple should defendants get?

MikeinAppalachia said...

phx said:
"As if there was no such thing as jury nullification, for example."

Ummm....example of what, exactly?
The act of nullification says nothing contary to the contention that an accused was found guilty by 12 jurors.
There is no conflict in the two.
Your later points are better.

Sofa King said...

I am well within my rights as a juror to call the law horse shit and vote to acquit for that reason.

You are not within your rights as a *defendant* to demand that a nullifier be on your jury, is the point Beldar was making. And he is right, incidentally.

Seven Machos said...

JR -- There are many feasible ways to determine who is a competent attorney for death penalty cases. We have rules already. They need to be stricter and better. Further, why is a jury trial enough for you? How come it's not too much?

Sofa -- How you inferred that I am saying that defendants should ask for jury nullification is truly a testament to poor reasoning skills on your part. There is no such implication. Perhaps you don't understand what voir dire is. Start there. Retrace your steps and think more carefully.

Cedarford said...

Seven Machos said...
the jury must be "death qualified" in voir dire

This brings up an excellent point, and, at last, a constitutional one. The Constitution says a jury of your peers. It does not say a s jury of the subset of your peers that is not against the death penalty.

Nice try, 7. It has long been held Constitutional to exclude "your peers" from a jury if voire dire questioning reveals they will not follow the law and apply a verdict and faithfully deliberate a sentence (if applicable).

Sorry, but "your peers" don't get seated if they say:

1. I deeply oppose the IRS and I will not vote to put anyone behind bars for tax evasion.
2. I personally have a deep conviction as a black person that none of our racially oppressed black youth deserve time behind bars for beating up some white or gook.
3. I oppose the death penalty in all circumstances no matter what the law says and as a peer of the accused, I have a right to hold out and block it.
4. "Had trouble with women? Heck, what guy hasn't. I know you guys think you have a rape case and I'm willing to listen...but most the time these bitches are asking for it."

***That is the problem in trying to apply some universalist 'any and all peers seated' per the Constitution, 7. Do it for the death penalty, you would have to reverse all the rulings that state exclusion aand voire dire are legal and constitutional - then apply it in all cases besides just the death penalty.

Kirby Olson said...

We're all sentenced to an eventual death. You can't have a perfect system. Mistakes will always be made. But you have to try to shorten up some lives to make it fair for the people who shortened other people's lives. You can't ever know for sure. But we have to try. I think Perry's right about everything except maybe social security. I like social security.

Revenant said...

Revenant, he hadn't met the criteria for a stay

The governor has sole discretion in determining if the criteria have been met. Your opinion isn't of interest to me; Perry's is.

Sofa King said...

Sofa -- How you inferred that I am saying that defendants should ask for jury nullification is truly a testament to poor reasoning skills on your part. There is no such implication. Perhaps you don't understand what voir dire is. Start there. Retrace your steps and think more carefully.

As someone who has participated in voir dire personally on BOTH sides, I think I have a fair understanding. YOU need to think more carefully about what it is, exactly, you are trying to say. Example: what is this

The Constitution says a jury of your peers. It does not say a s jury of the subset of your peers that is not against the death penalty.

supposed to be saying except that you believe in some kind of constitutional right to have anti-death penalty people on your jury? Do you think there is something improper about excluding death penalty nullifiers in voir dire? If so, what, exactly, is improper about it?

And you might want to read more carefully, too, since I never said anything about a defendant asking for nullification.

Read, think, then speak, is the generally preffered order of operations.

cubanbob said...

phx said...
The death penalty is just that, a punishment for a crime beyond the pale.

Although time and again it's been demonstrated that CP is applied unequally, and in fact it's virtually a freak accident if you are one is sentenced to die.

9/8/11 2:30 PM

The issue isn't a statistical one. Each crime is a world unto itself. Either it is heinous enough to merit a penalty of death or it isn't. If the crime is sufficiently heinous enough and the evidence is such that no one with a clear conscious can have a doubt of the guilt of the convicted and the convicted has received a fair trial and been ably defended then that is the consideration, not what some other trial somewhere else may or may not have resulted in a comparable sentence.

Beldar said...

@ Revenant: To get a stay, you have to show there's a good reason to believe that during the resulting 30-day delay, you're going to be able to do something in court that will overturn the death sentence.

Willingham didn't meet that standard.

Almost no one ever does, but the system does give convicted defendants that chance.

It's not about "mercy" or "good vibes," Revenant. It's about evidence and law and respecting jury verdicts and the results of trials and appeals. The state governor's role in the process is extremely limited, very deliberately so.

We call it the "rule of law." You can look it up on the interwebz.

Seven Machos said...

Sofa -- you have things hilariously backwards. It is the state that has the luxury of kicking people out of the jury pool in a death penalty case if those people won't convict because of a death penalty animus.

Most people know this.

Beldar said...

I can't vouch for everything on it, but this site has quite a bit of information on the Willingham case, including citations to the appellate opinions.

To help appreciate what a lovely man Willingham was, consider his actual last words — not just the ones that the New Yorker saw fit to include:

"Yeah. The only statement I want to make is that I am an innocent man -- convicted of a crime I did not commit. I have been persecuted for 12 years for something I did not do. From God's dust I came and to dust I will return -- so the earth shall become my throne. I gotta go, road dog. I love you Gabby. I hope you rot in hell, bitch; I hope you fucking rot in hell, bitch. You bitch; I hope you fucking rot, cunt. That is it."

What a loss to the world of literature! Think of the epic love sonnets he might have written!

Seven Machos said...

P.S. -- why should the State get to decide which side of a legitimate political issue all 12 jury members fall on when precisely that issue issue?

Beldar said...

@ Seven Machos: You're badly wrong if you think that the state gets to kick off everyone who has doubts about the death penalty.

Those who are excused for cause must have testified under oath that the strength of their anti-death penalty opinion is so strong that they may disregard the court's instructions and definitions when returning a verdict.

So the people who are excused for cause are admitted scofflaws -- people who are not just concerned about the death penalty, or not just against the death penalty, but who feel so strongly that they could never, in any case, vote for the death penalty no matter what evidence was presented.

Someone with strong anti-death penalty opinions but who says he can follow the law and convict upon appropriate evidence may still be struck by prosecutors through a peremptory strike, but prosecutors have a limited number of those.

Chase said...

The death penalty issue aside, I am more concerned with the practice of solitary confinement that is - thankfully being reconsidered and outlawed in several states.
Often practiced as 23 hours in a 64 foot by 6 foot cell, with 1 hour a day out and no light and often no air conditioning, there is no reason to leave any human being in such a position for more than 1 day, ever. Most men lose their part of their sanity permanently under such circumnstances in just 30 days.

That is the standard by which cruel and unusual should be measured. anyone continuing to advocate it after learning what it really is can be given the death penalty as far as I am concerned.

ken in sc said...

BTW, The reason Utah allows a condemned man to choose a firing squad is because Mormon doctrine teaches that if you are guilty of a blood crime, you can only get forgiveness and salvation by spilling your own blood. It is considered an act of mercy for the soul of the condemned.

Seven Machos said...

Beldar -- I really do admire your arguing skills. You are adept at using words to your advantage -- emotional words that are not too strong but just strong enough to sway along side the reasoning you also use. I would have you as my attorney any day.

That sincere praise aside, you are wrong on many, many levels. To wit:

Those who are excused for cause must have testified under oath that the strength of their anti-death penalty opinion is so strong that they may disregard the court's instructions and definitions when returning a verdict.

You are saying, in practical terms, that there is an affidavit involved. Big deal. They are pieces of paper and nothing more. The reality is that the prosecution gets an unlimited number of chances to cut potential jurors simply because of their moral judgment.

admitted scofflaws -- people who are not just concerned about the death penalty, or not just against the death penalty, but who feel so strongly that they could never, in any case, vote for the death penalty

The word scofflaw is one of these perfect words I speak about above. I would use a phrase instead: virtuous people of action. If the law is wrong, then it is wrong to abide by the law. Period.

Someone with strong anti-death penalty opinions but who says he can follow the law and convict upon appropriate evidence may still be struck by prosecutors through a peremptory strike, but prosecutors have a limited number of those.

You already gave away the game in your discussion of affidavits. A good lawyer, such as yourself, can game this to eternity until she gets a jury that is essentially pro-death penalty. This is still another reason to add more safeguards to the system, at whatever cost.

Beldar said...

@ Seven Machos: Thanks for the kind words. Yours and mine has indeed been a civil conversation, for which I'm grateful too.

The juror qualifications issue, though, isn't decided based on affidavits or any other pieces of paper. It's based on the jurors' sworn answers in open court, sometimes at the bench but still on the record, in response to questions from the prosecutor, defense counsel, and (occasionally) the judge.

I understand your point about jury nullification. I also agree that some people may genuinely believe that the death penalty can never be justified, and they hold that belief so firmly that they cannot simultaneously promise that the could hand down a death sentence if the evidence justified that.

I can respect those people and the sincerity of their beliefs, even though I have different beliefs.

But when they say, "I can't follow the law if the law permits the death penalty," then they're quite literally lawless. They cannot fulfill their oaths as jurors. They aren't competent to be on a death penalty jury (even though they might be perfectly competent to be on the aggravated assault jury next door).

We can't let people on juries unless they're committed to follow the law as given to them by the trial judge. If someone said, "I intend to vote for a death sentence regardless of the evidence, because I think everyone who's guilty of murder deserves to die and I don't care what the law says about aggravating circumstances," that guy would also be excused. I presume you don't have a problem with that. So are you arguing we should permit jurors who warn us up front that they're not going to follow the law, so long as they're liberal-leaning?

Those who oppose the death penalty should work toward persuading state legislators to do so. Such opponents have been successful in many states. I don't think they're going to be successful in Texas any time soon, but time will tell.

Beldar said...

There may be something newer, but the last time I checked Lockhart v. McCree, 476 U.S. 162 (1986), was the best SCOTUS debate over "death-qualified juries," as capital punishment opponents describe these issues. Justice Marshall's dissent is as good an argument against the current law as any I've seen since then, but I still agree with Justice Rehnquist's majority opinion.

Let me also surprise a few folks by recommending some reporting on capital punishment trends in Texas from ... wait for it ... the New Yorker.

I don't think Jeffrey Toobin is capable of writing anything that's not seriously slanted to the left, and I think he tends to adhere to a lot of cartoonish stereotypes, especially when he's writing about the SCOTUS and its members. But this is actually a pretty good report "from the trenches" here in Houston, where we take the death penalty very seriously and it is not at all hypothetical. Nothing I read in it surprised me: The main problem with the article, in fact, is that Toobin seems to think the death penalty defense/mitigation lawyers he's interviewing invented this whole subject in the last few years, when in fact I can confirm from personal knowledge that good prosecutors and defense lawyers have been focused on mitigation since 1976 and Gregg v. Georgia.

Beldar said...

(That link to Toobin may be paywalled, but there are other places on the net where the full article appears for free; I just can't vouch for their copyright compliance and I don't want to link anything that might annoy the New Yorker's IP lawyers, who are quite diligent and capable.)

Henry said...

@slarrow -- I picked up the statistics from the Death Penalty Information Center. It is an advocacy group, obviously, but I hope their basic data is accurate.

They define exoneration as follows:

For Inclusion on DPIC's Innocence List:
Defendants must have been convicted, sentenced to death and subsequently either-
a) their conviction was overturned AND
i) they were acquitted at re-trial or
ii) all charges were dropped
b) they were given an absolute pardon by the governor based on new evidence of innocence.

So this is a fairly high standard.

Beldar said...

@ Henry: Thank you for that link. I don't think that's as useful a list as you may think it is, however.

There's no basis to assert that everyone who they've listed as "exonerated" is actually innocent.

It is unfortunate, but incredibly common, for key witnesses to be unavailable to the prosecution two or three years after a convicted defendant manages to get his conviction reversed or a retrial ordered through a habeas petition.

I represented a defendant in the early 1980s, for example, who'd been convicted of capital murder in the late 1970s, but the jury declined to impose the death penalty, so he was serving a life sentence. He'd been the getaway driver on an intended home burglary; his companions in crime, upon entering the home, found it occupied by a county juvenile officer, whom they proceeded to execute in front of his family.

By the time that the Fifth Circuit agreed with me that my client's rights had been violated and ordered a new trial, several witnesses had become unavailable. One of my client's accomplices had been killed in a prison fight, and the other had been convicted and executed.

By then, my client had served about six years -- heavy for a home burglar, light for a capital murderer (even under the felony murder rule). But faced with having to retry a case that they might lose, the prosecutors decided that "time served" was enough, and my client ended up being released.

So had my client been sentenced to death, your list would have included my victory on his behalf as him being "exonerated." But it was nothing of the sort; it was a judicial acknowledgment that his trial was flawed, followed by a prosecutorial decision that they could no longer make as strong a case as they had earlier.

So I suspect those statistics considerably overstate the "exonerated" claim. And indeed, the "glass half full" view of such statistics is that they prove that the system often corrects its own malfunctions, albeit not perfectly and sometimes after terrible delays.

Ken said...

Andrew Sullivan is against the death penalty, because he knows that eventually its popularity will cause it to be applied to child molesters like him.

Keep in mind that Andrew Sullivan recently was arrested for offering a 10-year-old boy marijuana, in exchange for sex.

AST said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
VanderDouchen said...

When I was a young, hardcore, high speed, low drag, medium altitude stud, I was all about enforcing the death penalty. Now that I am old and gray, I am vehemently opposed to it. I now see that the deliberate and wise people who support the system that defines the processes of the death penalty are typically neither deliberate nor wise.

I do not want to free Mumia, however. So, take this for what it's worth.

If we must continue the death penalty in Merca, I suggest we go back to public hangings or firing squads, blasted out via video over the internet. These are not inconsequential decisions...

Peter said...

lytThere is no proof of guilt more certain than "beyond a reasonable doubt". An unreasonable person will always have unreasonable doubts. Who was that idiot teevee person braying that fire doesn't melt steel?

You want to fight the Texas death penalty, move here, win a legislative office and introduce a bill. I doubt the bill would get too far, actually we Texans do not believe we use the death penalty enough.

We also do not believe we have given that power to "The Government". We believe that it is our police making the arrest, our prosecutors charging the criminal, our grand juries indicting the criminal, our judges presiding over the trial, our defense attorneys defending, our citizens as witnesses and above all, our citizens as juries. Texans believe in the citizen. You might ask Beldar or Ms. Althouse about jury nullification, we're kind of fond of that one, too.

Barza said...

The last time I checked (over a year ago) Missouri and Nevada had higher per capita death penalty rates than Texas.

Harris County, TX (Houston) had the highest rate and number of executions in the nation.

Stick - Zar dei colli rossi said...

I think he should have used the Ron White bit in it's entirety.

"I'm from Texas where we ahve the death penalty & we USE it.

If you kill somebody, we'll kill you back>

As a matter of fact, if you commit a particularly heinous crime in Texas, you'll go to the front of the line. So, while other states are dropping the death penalty, my state is putting in an express lane!

slarrow said...

Since this thread is wrapping up, I just wanted to express my appreciation and admiration again for Beldar. I meant it that I love it when he gets cranky because when he does, he's just fun Texan at that point. But it's also unusual because he's normally very gracious, generous, and fair. If you're looking for someone to model that exemplifies what discussion on the interwebz ought to be, Beldar fits the bill.

Beldar said...

@ Ken (9/8/11 11:16 PM): I haven't spent more than a few minutes looking, but I couldn't find any verification of your claim on the internet. Sullivan was famously arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana in a national park, but I certainly don't recall reading about any solicitation-of-a-child allegations then. Unless you can provide a link to a credible source, I'm inclined to disbelieve you. Even though I have a very poor opinion of Andrew Sullivan, the possession charges (which apparently were dismissed) don't amount to a hill of beans, and the rest looks like libel to me, even if Sullivan is a public figure under (irony alert) NYT v. Sullivan.

@ Those who've said or emailed complimentary words: Thanks very much.

As for being grumpy, I'm guilty as charged. I've no patience for a nonlawyer lecturing me on how the appellate courts work, because I've seen that from as close as it can be seen without being an appellate judge oneself.

Many of the people contributing to this thread, though, have been very reasonable in their statements. And if my grumpiness offended anyone else (besides that clown), I apologize. Such was not my intent, and I see that I should have foreseen the offense and taken steps to avoid it.

The death penalty is controversial. I'm glad for that, actually, even though I support it. It is entirely appropriate for society to ask itself whether this most extreme of punishments is being used correctly, and even whether it should be used at all.

Inevitably, the decision comes down to comparing the appropriate weightiness of competing interests — a profound and inevitably subjective judgment call.

I do genuinely respect those whose judgments differ from mine because, for example, they attach different weights than I do to things we both value. We all agree, for instance, that it's terrible when the state punishes someone who's innocent. And some principled people weigh that shared value so heavily that in their evaluation, it overwhelms whatever good the death penalty may do as retribution or deterrence.

I respect that view even though I don't agree: I think every human endeavor is necessarily fraught with the possibility of error, including our criminal justice system, and that while we ought to take greater efforts to avoid errors in capital cases precisely because executions are permanent, that's not a sufficient reason to throw away whatever deterrent effect there may be, and definitely not a sufficient reason to deny the most severe retribution to those brutal few who commit the most severe of crimes.

But let us at least acknowledge, and take comfort in and fellowship from, the values we do share, and be slower to impute wicked intent to those with whom we really should just be having a good-faith and respectful debate.

Beldar said...

Yikes -- that last paragraph is almost Obama-like, isn't it?

Sounds like what Prof. A just labeled "that civility bullshit" in another post.

Thus does a phony and insincere conciliator ruin it for the rest of us who'd undertake that task.

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