Discussion:
death penalty news----TEXAS, N.C., GA., FLA., ALA., LA.
(too old to reply)
Rick Halperin
2017-04-06 13:55:00 UTC
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Raw Message
April 6



TEXAS----impending execution

Death Watch: No Comfort, No Closure----Jonas Cherry's parents don't want their
son's killer killed


32-year-old Paul Storey is the 5th person set for a state killing this year,
his execution date currently set for Wednesday, April 12. In 2006, Storey shot
and killed Jonas Cherry, manager of the Putt-Putt Golf & Games mini-golf course
in Hurst (Tarrant County) during a botched robbery. His friend Mark Devayne
Porter, who had served as accomplice, accepted a plea deal, and is currently
serving life in prison. Storey refused a similar plea, and in 2008, he was
found guilty of capital murder, and sentenced to death.

Storey's efforts for relief have since been unsuccessful. But recently, a few
impediments to his execution have arisen. Austin attorney Keith Hampton, who's
representing Storey with Mike Ware, says that Cherry's parents Glenn and Judy
were appalled by the state's invitation to travel to Huntsville to witness
Storey's execution, and have filed an affidavit with Tarrant Co. District
Attorney Sharen Wilson and Gov. Greg Abbott requesting that Storey's life be
spared. "It is very painful for us to consider the suffering of Paul Storey's
mother, grandmother, and family if he is put to death," they wrote. "[His]
execution will not bring our son back, will not atone for the loss of our son,
and will not bring comfort or closure." Hampton called the Cherrys' request an
"amazing act of mercy." He said it's rare to hear the family of a murder victim
say "you'll multiply our pain by inflicting pain on another family."

Hampton and Ware have separately been at work to vacate Storey's sentence. On
March 31, they filed a petition asking that their client's sentence be vacated
in consideration of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. They say prosecutors
knew of the Cherrys' opposition to the sentence, and that prosecutor Christy
Jack lied in her closing argument about their desire to see Storey executed.
And because the prosecution offered Storey a plea deal prior to trial, Hampton
argued, the prosecution's pursuit of the death penalty raises a presumption of
vindictiveness.

Making matters more muddy is that Sven Berger, one of the jurors during
Storey's trial, spoke with the Marshall Project last March, confessing his
regrets for sending Storey to death row. Referencing a 2010 affidavit he filed
in Storey's support, Berger said he would have lobbied against the death
penalty had he known of Storey's "'borderline intellectual functioning,'
history of depression," and other mitigating evidence. And in a 2nd affidavit,
Berger said he would also have rejected a death sentence had he known the
Cherrys' stance.

Both Ware and Hampton hope that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will be
swayed and grant Storey a new punishment hearing. If not, he'll be the 543rd
Texan executed since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1976.

(source: Austin Chronicle)

**************************

Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----24

Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----543

Abbott#--------scheduled execution date-----name------------Tx. #

25---------April 12-----------------Paul Storey-----------543

26---------May 16-------------------Tilon Carter----------544

27---------May 24-------------------Juan Castillo----------545

28---------June 28------------------Steven Long-----------546

29---------July 19-----------------Kosoul Chanthakoummane---547

30---------July 27-----------------Taichin Preyor---------548

(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)

*********************

Ruling could mean new execution date for man convicted in prison guard's
murder----A death row inmate convicted in a Texas prison guard's murder lost
another appeal Wednesday at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.


The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled against a death row inmate who
claims he was framed in the 1999 murder of a prison guard. The ruling could
allow Bee County to set his 4th execution date in the last 2 years.

Robert Pruett, 37, has consistently maintained his innocence in the murder of
Daniel Nagle, and for the last several years, has worked to have DNA testing
prove his innocence. But the trial court has twice tested DNA evidence in the
case and twice found inconclusive results, ruling that the tests wouldn't have
had any effect on his conviction and sentence had they been available during
his 2002 trial, according to Wednesday's Court of Criminal Appeals opinion.

Pruett was serving a life sentence for murder in Beeville when Nagle was
murdered in December 1999, according to court records. Nagle was found stabbed,
unresponsive in a pool of his own blood next to a sharpened metal rod and a
shredded disciplinary report Nagle filed against Pruett. Pruett says he was
framed for the murder, that he threw the report at Nagle but didn't hurt him.

A Bee County jury sentenced Pruett to death in 2002 for Nagle's murder.

In 2013, Pruett began requesting DNA testing to clear his name. Results tested
that year were inconclusive, and the courts ruled against him, according to the
opinion. Pruett was then given an April 2015 execution date.

On the day of his execution, his attorney filed another appeal, asking for
further DNA testing, this time on the tape that covered the metal rod
identified as the murder weapon and the rod itself. A state district judge
halted the execution to run the tests, even though he was skeptical of Pruett's
motives.

"The court has no doubt the request for the proposed DNA testing was made to
delay the execution of sentence," Judge Bert Richardson wrote. "However, at
this point, although such delay tactics appear to be unreasonable, it is not
clear that they, in fact, are unreasonable. Although unlikely, it is not
impossible to conceive that there could be exculpatory results."

Again, the court found no DNA other than Nagle's, except for an unknown female
profile found on the metal rod - which wasn't found in original testing in
2000. An analyst determined the weapon was contaminated after the murder (the
rod has been handled by attorneys and even journalists).

Because the testing didn't provide evidence for or against Pruett, the trial
court again ruled the results would have had no effect on his original
conviction or sentence, and set another execution date for Pruett, in April
2016. The date was rescheduled to August, and the Court of Criminal Appeals
granted a stay in the weeks before his scheduled death to further examine the
trial court's ruling.

On Wednesday, the highest criminal appeals court in Texas issued its ruling,
upholding the trial court's findings. Jeff Newberry, Pruett's lawyer, said he
would "definitely" seek relief in a federal court. Pruett could appeal the
decision to the U.S. Supreme Court or file another appeal in federal court. In
the meantime, Bee County may set another execution date.

Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Elsa Alcala, known for her lengthy dissents in
death penalty cases, wrote a concurring opinion. She said she agrees with the
court that the DNA evidence wouldn't have affected Pruett's case, but that
there are other "significant" issues with his conviction that should be
reopened. This includes a witness who claimed she could match the tape around
the weapon to tape in the prison shop, what Alcala referred to as "junk
science."

"The record suggests that appellant was convicted at his 2002 trial primarily
on evidence of his motive to harm the victim, testimony of inmate-witnesses,
and junk science, but without any physical evidence directly establishing
appellant's guilt," Alcala wrote, adding that her court has never allowed
Pruett a hearing to address any of those issues.

(source: Texas Tribune)

****************

Man condemned for family murder plot loses federal appeal


A federal appeals court has rejected an appeal from a suburban Houston man on
death row for arranging the killings of his mother and brother in 2003 so he
could collect a $1 million inheritance.

Attorneys for Thomas "Bart" Whitaker, 37, argued to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals that his trial lawyers were deficient and that Fort Bend County
prosecutors during the guilt-innocence and punishment phases of his trial
improperly referred to discussion of a plea deal that never was reached.

Court records show Whitaker offered to take responsibility for the killings and
accept life sentences but his attorneys said prosecutors rejected it because it
contained no expressions of remorse for the shooting deaths of his mother,
Patricia Whitaker, 51, and his 19-year-old brother, Kevin, at the family's
Sugar Land home. Whitaker's father also was shot but survived.

The 5th Circuit, in its ruling late Tuesday, noted a lower court said the court
record consistently showed trial lawyers initiated the plea bargain offer and
that it included a provision that prosecutors would promise "to consider" not
seeking the death penalty.

A jury decided he should be put to death.

Evidence showed the plot was arranged by Whitaker, included 2 of his friends
and was at least his third attempt to kill his family.

The gunman, Chris Brashear, pleaded guilty in 2007 to a murder charge and was
sentenced to life in prison. Another man, Steve Champagne, who drove Brashear
from the Whitaker house the night of the shootings, took a 15-year prison term
in exchange for testifying in Whitaker's trial.

As part of the plot, Whitaker was shot in the arm to draw attention away from
him.

Investigators said the shooting was made to look like the family had
interrupted a burglary and took place as the Whitakers returned from a dinner
to celebrate Thomas Whitaker's graduation from Sam Houston State University in
Huntsville, where he transferred in 2001 after attending Baylor University in
Waco. Evidence showed Whitaker never graduated from either school.

In another case involving a Texas death row inmate, the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals on Wednesday rejected an appeal from Robert Pruett, who was condemned
for the fatal stabbing of a Texas corrections officer in 1999.

Pruett, 37, already was in prison with a 99-year sentence when he was arrested
for the slaying of corrections officer Daniel Nagle at the McConnell Unit
prison near Beeville, about 85 miles southeast of San Antonio. Pruett's lawyers
appealed a ruling from the Bee County trial court regarding new DNA testing of
evidence. The court found the trial outcome wouldn't have changed if the new
DNA test results had been available.

Neither Whitaker nor Pruett has an execution date.

(source: Associated Press)






NORTH CAROLINA:

Death penalty sought against man in burned body case


Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against a man charged with murder in
the death of a woman whose burned body was found outside a home in Hickory.

The body of Stephanie Charlene Harvey, 50, was found in June in grass outside a
home in the 400 block of Second Street SW.

Harvey had severe burns on her upper body and was pronounced dead at the scene,
police said.

Glen McQuay Jr., 55, of Hickory was charged with murder and has been in the
Catawba County Jail without bail.

The Catawba County District Attorney's Office announced Wednesday that the case
will proceed as a capital matter, meaning the death penalty will be sought.

(source: charlotteobserver.com)






GEORGIA:

Why did Georgia execute more prisoners in 2016 than any other state?----The
state killed 9 inmates last year in an effort to make up for lost time


Last year, at a time when the use of death penalty had dropped to historic lows
nationwide, Georgia executed 9 people convicted of murder, more than any other
state, including perennial leader Texas. You'd have to go back to 1957 to find
the most recent year when Georgia executed more inmates - 16, for those
counting - than it did last year.

Don't expect the pace to continue. Georgia's death row is becoming a lonely
place. Currently there are just 58 inmates awaiting execution at the Georgia
Diagnostic and Classification State Prison in Jackson, Georgia, where capital
sentences are carried out. (In 2000, 125 inmates were living under a death
sentence.) The last person condemned to die in Georgia was Adrian Hargrove,
sentenced in 2014 for fatally stabbing and bludgeoning an Augusta married
couple and their pregnant 18-year-old daughter.

The state's shrinking death row population reflects the public's overall
diminishing support for capital punishment. A Georgia College 2016 poll showed
that 58 % of state residents favored the death penalty, a figure that's even
lower than the national average of 60 %. (Americans' support for capital
punishment peaked at 80 % in 1994.) And thanks to the option of life without
parole, prosecutors and juries have an avenue of punishment that ensures that
convicted murderers will die behind bars.

In 2016, Georgia executed 9 people convicted of murder after a 6-month lull in
the death chamber. On average, the inmates sat on death row for more than 20
years.

No matter your opinion on the death penalty, one thing is indisputable: No one
is executed in Georgia without the chance to proceed through a dozen or so
different appeals that can either postpone execution or forestall it
altogether.

Defense attorneys may only contest issues pertaining to the capital trial at
first, but if judges affirm the original decision, the attorneys can then
embark on a circuitous series of challenges in state and federal courts. It's
not until these "post-conviction" appeals that defense attorneys bring up
issues beyond the scope of the initial trial, such as new evidence or juror
misconduct.

Once all appeals are exhausted, the district attorney's office that originally
tried the case asks a judge to issue an execution warrant. The Georgia
Department of Corrections must schedule a 7-day window between 10 and 20 days
after the judge's order for the execution to take place. At this point, a
prisoner can only be spared if the state's pardons and parole board grants
clemency or a court issues a stay before the execution. Both instances are
rare, though the latter does occasionally happen, delaying death sometimes by
hours or even months.

Appeals rarely lead to exoneration. Only 6 Georgia death row prisoners have
walked free since 1975. But appeals have spared the lives of at least 160
Georgia inmates who, between 1973 and 2013, were removed from death row because
either their sentences or convictions were overturned, according to the U.S.
Department of Justice.

In 2005 the Georgia General Assembly and state Supreme Court created the
Georgia Capital Defender office to ensure that death row inmates were
represented by experienced death penalty attorneys. Because of their work, the
average time between conviction and execution has been extended. Of the 9
Georgia prisoners put to death last year, the average stay on death row was
more than 20 years. 1 inmate sat on death row for nearly 37 years.

What, then, explains the frequency of Georgia's executions last year? Put
simply, the state was making up for lost time. In March 2015 the state
announced it would postpone scheduled executions after a portion of the state's
supply of pentobarbital appeared "cloudy" - a possible indication of
contamination. The postponement created a 6-month logjam. The 9 executions in
2016 helped the state get back on schedule.

Death penalty defense attorneys - including Michael Mears, who has represented
more than 160 death row prisoners and now teaches at John Marshall Law School -
say the state's backlog is now considerably diminished. This lowers the
likelihood that 2017 will be as deadly. As of January only 3 prisoners await
the outcome of their final appeal.

"I don't think we'll see another year with 9 executions," Mears says. "It's not
going to go away [but] it's going to diminish in numbers. It'll fade from
public consciousness."

Wheels of Justice----A death sentence marks the start of a long legal slog. The
appeals process could spare a prisoner's life, but losing all of the steps
seals their fate.

Capital Trial----This is where a jury can hand down a death sentence.

Direct Appeal----Lawyers can contest only issues brought up in the capital
trial.

U.S. Supreme Court----A petition may be filed for an appeal. The nation's top
court probably won't hear it.

State Post-Conviction Proceedings----Lawyers can present new evidence from
outside the original trial.

State Court of Appeals----A judge reviews the previous state post-conviction
ruling.

U.S. Supreme Court----Try again with SCOTUS. But it's their call whether to
hear the case.

Federal Post-Conviction Proceedings----A judge will only consider issues
regarding egregious errors made by the state.

U.S. Court of Appeals----A judge reviews the previous federal post-conviction
ruling.

U.S. Supreme Court----The last chance, except in rare cases, for an appeal
before an execution gets scheduled.

Clemency----The pardons and parole board may halt an execution.

Last-minute filings----Lawyers petition courts hours before an execution in
hopes of a last-minute reprieve.

(source: Atlanta Magazine)






FLORIDA----female faces death penalty

Deerfield woman facing death penalty after conviction for murdering roommate


Jacqueline Luongo is guilty, a Broward jury decided Wednesday.

Guilty of the 2014 murder of her roommate, Patricia Viveiros. Guilty of hiring
a hit man to kill her former lover, Maria Calderon, in 2015. And guilty of
witness tampering.

Jurors deliberated for 14 hours over 2 days before reaching their verdict late
Wednesday afternoon. They'll be back on June 26 to start listening to more
evidence - this time to decide whether Luongo, 46, deserves to be executed for
the murder.

Luongo will be the 1st murderer in Broward County to face sentencing under
Florida's newest death penalty law, which requires a jury to recommend death by
a unanimous vote after finding that enough aggravating factors have been proved
beyond a reasonable doubt.

The jury asked no substantive questions during their deliberations - their only
notes to Broward Circuit Judge Dennis Bailey were about ordering food or taking
breaks. At one point Tuesday, they asked for a break "from each other." And a
court deputy told Bailey on Wednesday that 1 juror was crying alone during a
break, though the juror did not say why.

In the end, the jurors found Luongo guilty as charged.

Luongo did not react to the verdict. Viveiros' family remained silent as well.

Calderon was not in court for the verdict. Her testimony last week helped seal
Luongo's fate. She told jurors that Luongo approached her about killing
Viveiros in August 2014 after learning that Viveiros had access to $50,000 from
a life insurance policy. Calderon refused to go along, then turned Luongo in
after Luongo claimed she walked in on another man killing Viveiros.

Prosecutors said Luongo then hatched a plot to kill Calderon, enlisting the
help of a fellow inmate to hire someone to commit the murder. The would-be hit
man turned out to be a detective, who worked with Calderon to stage the murder,
leading Luongo to believe the mission was a success.

Prosecutor Shari Tate convinced the jury that the murder was premeditated and
that the motive was money. For the next stage, Tate will have to show jurors
that the crime was particularly heinous. She laid the groundwork during the
trial, showing how Viveiros, 68, was alive when she got into a final
confrontation with Luongo. Luongo handcuffed Viveiros and wound a roll of duct
tape around her head, cutting off the victim's air supply so that she knew she
was going to die for at least a few minutes before she passed out, according to
trial testimony.

Luongo then dressed in a wig and, pretending to be Viveiros, cashed thousands
of dollars in checks issued from the insurance policy, according to testimony.

Defense lawyer Gabe Ermine said in his arguments that Luongo was tricked into
plotting to kill Calderon and implied that Calderon was Viveiros' killer, an
accusation that generated friction and hostility when Calderon was on the
stand.

Two other lawyers, Robert Wills and Phyllis Cook, sat with the defense table to
prepare for the next phase of the trial. Their task will be to convince the
jury that there are "mitigating factors" to consider at sentencing, arguing
Luongo deserves life in prison rather than death by lethal injection.

(source: Sun-Sentinel)






ALABAMA----2 new execution dates

Court sets another execution date for Alabama inmate


The Alabama Supreme Court has set a May execution date for an Alabama inmate
who has had 7 previous execution dates postponed.

Tommy Arthur is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection on May 25.
Arthur was convicted of murder in the 1982 slaying of Troy Wicker.

The court also set a June 8 execution for Robert Melson. Melson was convicted
of killing 3 Popeye's restaurant employees during a 1995 robbery in Gadsden.

Arthur has waged a lengthy legal battle against the death penalty.

The U.S. Supreme Court halted Arthur's execution in November on the same
evening he was set to die by lethal injection.

(source: Associated Press)

**************

Death penalty: Firing squad out, nitrogen gas in


Death row inmates in Alabama may still have a 3rd option besides lethal
injection and the electric chair, but it won't be the firing squad.

In looking for another option for inmates convicted of the death penalty, Sen.
Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, has substituted a new method of death as an option
for inmates facing the death penalty, one he says is painless and easier to
administer: nitrogen asphyxiation.

Nitrogen makes up 78 % of the atmosphere and is harmless when inhaled with
oxygen. Nitrogen is also mixed with oxygen in tanks used for scuba diving. When
pure nitrogen is inhaled in large quantities, however, it is said to cause
instant unconsciousness and a painless death, Pittman said.

Previously:Bill would bring firing squad executions to Alabama

If SB12 is passed, Alabama would become the 2nd state to offer nitrogen
asphyxiation as a death penalty option. Oklahoma passed a similar bill in 2015,
although the method has not been used, yet, Pittman said. In fact, no country
has actually used it for death penalty purposes, although deaths due to
nitrogen asphyxiation have been documented and studied.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board published a 2003 study
that found that 80 people died from incidentally inhaling nitrogen between 1992
and 2002.

"It hasn???t been used in practice for sentencing the death penalty," Pittman
said. "Inhaling nitrogen leads to instantaneous unconsciousness and, in a
moment or so, death."

SB12 passed the State Judiciary Committee 6-3.

(source: Associated Press)






LOUISIANA:

If Louisiana's death row ended tomorrow, would you notice?


"Depend upon it sir," Samuel Johnson said, "When a man knows he is to be hanged
in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."

In present-day Louisiana, however, the maxim no longer applies. If a man ever
were within 2 weeks of execution, he would have spent so many years in solitary
that there wouldn't be enough mind left to concentrate. But it's so long since
we scheduled an execution that there is no call for our 70 death row inmates to
focus their thoughts in any case.

Thus, if legislators in the upcoming session agree to abolish the death
penalty, nobody will notice any difference. Louisiana has only put one man to
death since 2002, and he waived appeals. Anyone who has visited death row can
see how execution might seem a better option.

A class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of the condemned alleges that their life
is so harsh that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and denies the
condemned due process and equal protection of the law.

The constitutional rights of murderers are not a cause to which the public will
rally, and these plaintiffs are the worst of a depraved bunch, else they would
have gotten life. The general view, therefore, may be that the best way to
relieve them of the hardships of which they complain is to strap them in that
ol' gurney without delay.

But that is not an option with the elaborate succession of post-conviction
moves required in the modern dance with death. The years - nay, the decades -
come and go, and the bills mount up, but the executioner is never called upon.

Whether you are for capital punishment or against it on principle, there is no
denying that it just doesn't work anymore. Every death row prisoner, moreover,
costs taxpayers millions more than a lifer. And they'll probably both die in
Angola of natural causes.

As legislators convene to renew their ongoing struggle to make ends meet, they
will have a chance to further that cause via bills filed in both House and
Senate to abolish the death penalty. So long as we have it, capital cases will
eat up the taxpayer dollars in the "super due process" that is afforded
defendants at trial and beyond. The accommodations on death row may be Spartan,
moreover, but keeping every convict in solitary and providing the required
enhanced security costs a fortune. Common sense says scrap a death penalty we
have lost ability or the will to carry out, but legislators may figure that
voting to do so will get them branded as softies at the next election.

It will make no difference to the current death row population how legislators
vote. The bills would abolish the death penalty only for crimes committed after
August 1 this year. Thus the inmates are asking the federal courts to temper a
regime they say drives men nuts and destroys their physical health. They are
asking for a chance to interact with other human beings instead of being locked
up alone with nothing to do in a tiny windowless concrete cell for years on
end.

Since they were all found guilty of the most heinous and brutal murders, and
their plight will not excite much public sympathy, the general preference would
be for a return to the old days when the condemned everywhere were dispatched
within weeks, or even days. Only 50 years ago, when capital punishment was
abolished in Britain for instance, the law required just 3 Sundays to intervene
between conviction and execution. A few posthumous exonerations naturally
followed.

That would have happened in America too had a rush to execution been allowed
after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. So many
prisoners in Louisiana and elsewhere have had their convictions overturned
after years on death row that swift retribution would be as likely to thwart
justice as to aid it. The old days are never coming back.

If legislators do decide to abolish capital punishment, the state one of these
years might still get around to executing 1 of the current death row inmates.
That will concentrate his mind on the fickleness of fate.

(source: James Gill, The New Orleans Advocate)

**********************

Having the death penalty doesn't make Louisiana safe


When is the deterrent effect of the death penalty finally going to kick in?
That is the question that Louisiana lawmakers who defend the state's death
penalty law should be made to answer this session. 3 lawmakers -- Sen. Dan
Claitor, R- Baton Rouge; Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, and Rep. Steven
Pylant, R-Winnsboro -- have filed bills that would abolish the death penalty in
Louisiana. As their colleagues defend the death penalty -- as they inevitably
will -- they need to be ask one pointed question: If they believe the death
penalty deters other people from killing, when, exactly, do they predict that
the killings are going to start thinning out?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014 Louisiana
had the highest homicide mortality rate in the country. For every 100,000
people in our state there were 11.7 homicides, for a total of 538. Mississippi
was a close 2nd to Louisiana, with 11.4 homicides per 100,000 people, and
Alabama was 3rd with a homicide rate of 8.1.

After Alabama, there's Arkansas, South Carolina, Missouri, New Mexico, Maryland
and Delaware. Arkansas, South Carolina and Missouri all have the death penalty.
New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009, and Maryland did so in 2013.
Delaware's Supreme Court effectively ended the death penalty there last year,
which means that when the CDC did the homicide rate study mentioned above,
Delaware still had a death penalty.

So of the 10 most murderous states in 2014, 8 of those states had the death
penalty, and 1 of the 2 states that didn't have it had just abolished it the
previous year.

The 10 least murderous states were Vermont, North Dakota, New Hampshire,
Massachusetts, Minnesota, Utah, Maine, Hawaii, Oregon and Idaho. Four of those
states -- New Hampshire, Utah, Oregon and Idaho -- still have laws on their
books that allow the state to put murderers to death.

So there are, indeed, states with low murder rates and the death penalty. But
the low murder rates in those states do not appear to be a function of those
states having the death penalty.

But that's the argument that many death penalty proponents make: that when
people know they can be killed if they kill, then they will think twice about
killing. That argument presumes that murderers are thinkers, that they sit down
at their kitchen table sketching out the pros and cons of ending another
person's life. If that's how killers operated, maybe the death penalty would
have a deterrent effect. Maybe a would-be murderer would weigh snuffing out an
enemy against the potential of being snuffed out and decide against committing
the crime.

But that's not how it works, is it? People who murder aren't usually planning
on being caught. It seems naive to expect logical behavior from people who are
committing an act that is usually illogical, full of emotion and desperation.

So Louisiana's lawmakers could decide to get rid of it because it doesn't have
the deterrent effect its proponents tout. We have the penalty in place and
still have the country's highest rate of homicide.

But lawmakers who aren't moved by statistics that show that the death penalty
doesn't seem to be discouraging anybody from killing could look at how
expensive it is to have the death penalty. I know that it's counterintuitive,
but it costs way more money for the state to kill a person than sentence him or
her to life. Capital murder trials are far more expensive than non-capital
murder trials, and we can almost always expect that the defendant will be
indigent and that the costs will be borne by the state. In the fiscal year that
ended June 30, the Louisiana Public Defender Board spent $9.5 million on death
penalty cases. That was more than a quarter of the agency's entire budget.

Then there's the matter of appeals. They are costly and automatic for people
who are condemned to death -- and for good reason. We shouldn't want the state
to rush and kill a condemned person without being extra sure of the defendant's
guilt and without being extra sure that all the right procedures were followed.
Keeping prisoners on death row also costs significantly more money than keeping
them in other parts of the prison.

After years of added expenses -- more money for trial, more money for appeals,
more money for imprisonment -- there's still no guarantee that the state will
be able to carry out the punishment. The state has been having problems
obtaining the drugs necessary for lethal injection, and pharmaceutical
companies are becoming more reluctant to carry those drugs.

Rep. Claitor is a former prosecutor. Rep. Landry is a former superintendent of
the Louisiana State Police. Rep. Pylant is a former sheriff. These are not
people whose intolerance of crime should be questioned. It's important that
they're the ones offering the abolition bills. They are the ones who can most
effectively explain to the death penalty's supporters that it isn't making us
safer.

(source: Commentary; Jarvis DeBerry is deputy opinions editor for NOLA.COM)

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