Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Unit 1012 Cover Photo

Saturday, July 8, 2017

GARY BEATTY: DEATH PENALTY SERVES ITS PUPORSE



  
German soldiers captured as spies are tied to posts wearing marked American combat fatigues during Post World War II.

Death penalty serves its purpose: Opinion

No person who has been executed ever killed again —- so in that regard the death penalty is a 100 percent deterrent.

Like retired homicide detective and columnist Marshall Frank, who recently wrote about the death penalty, I have 30 years' experience in law enforcement — as a prosecutor.

I will respond to each of Mr. Frank's (allegedly) “valid reasons” to abolish the death penalty.

1) Too many risks of executing the innocent.

In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Kansas death penalty statute, against a constitutional challenge. The court discussed the claim of execution of the innocent, concluding they could not find a single instance of a person who was executed and subsequently proven to he innocent — not one. See Kansas v. Marsh 548 U.S. 163.

2) Costs.

In 1997 I wrote an article challenging the claim that the death penalty costs more than life in prison. I explained how the costs to impose the death penalty are increased by dilatory, duplicative appeals. See "The Federalist Society: Criminal Law and Procedure News," Vol. 1, No. 3, page 5 (cited in the Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 20, 2003).

In 1997 I wrote an article challenging the claim that the death penalty costs more than life in prison. I explained how the costs to impose the death penalty are increased by dilatory, duplicative appeals. See "The Federalist Society: Criminal Law and Procedure News," Vol. 1, No. 3, page 5 (cited in the Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 20, 2003).

In 1997, the Florida Supreme Court’s McDonald Commission Report found gross budget mismanagement by the state agency that handles death penalty appeals. Mismanagement was so egregious the legislature had to reorganize the whole agency to impose fiscal responsibility.

As for the “reason” that keeping inmates on death row for decades is so expensive, there are two obvious retorts. First: Execute them quicker so they don’t stay there for decades. Second, that same cost would be incurred to incarcerate them for life.

More relevant is that if you look at the cost numbers used for comparing life incarceration to imposing the death penalty, you’ll notice death-penalty opponents are cooking the books. They use today’s cost of incarceration throughout the anticipated lifespan of the inmate, rather than  costs adjusted for inflation. Nor do they include costs of geriatric care for aging inmates — an increasing portion of the prison system budget.





3) No deterrent.

No person who has been executed ever killed again — so in that regard the death penalty is a 100 percent deterrent. As for “studies” about the death penalty, I refer you to Justice Antonin Scalia’s concurring opinion in Kansas v. Marsh (cited earlier). He exposes anti-death penalty “studies” for the frauds they are.

4) Violates the Eighth Amendment.

Not according to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Florida Supreme Court — or reading of the rationale for that amendment at the time it was written. What that amendment prohibits was the way criminals had been executed — such as being hanged drawn and quartered, or broken on a wheel.

5) Economic inequities.

According to Frank, “Some court-appointed attorneys have been known to be over the hill." Every death penalty imposed in Florida has a mandatory appeal process by which the performance of the defense attorney is subject to review for ineffectiveness. If the attorney’s performance is found wanting, or in any way deficient, the death penalty is overturned and the defendant gets a new trial.

6) Barbarism.

One man’s "barbarism" is another man’s "justice." I’ve conferred with the surviving family members of murder victims more times than I care to remember. Most of the time the only thing they find "barbaric" is the fact the murderer is "getting off easy" by being put to sleep the same way they would humanely deal with a sick family pet.

7) Eighteen states have banned the death penalty.

Which means 32 states have the death penalty. So what is the point?

8) Execution by injection is not punishment.

Frank has me there. But that’s a “valid reason” for going back to "Old Sparky" or hanging — not for abolishing the death penalty.

9) It can be argued that perpetuating the death penalty basically endorses state-sponsored murder.

Or, it can be argued that the state imposing the death penalty replaces personal vendettas, and multi-generational feuds — which history demonstrates were common before the government assumed the role of executioner.

10) People change.

And often they don’t — as proved by the recidivism rates.

If Mr. Frank opposes the death penalty on personal, or moral, grounds, I respect that. But he shouldn’t try to justify changing a public policy, supported by a majority of Florida voters, with specious “reasons” that really aren’t.

Gary Beatty lives in Sharpes. He is board certified in criminal trial law by the Florida Bar and is a Distinguished Faculty Member of the Florida Prosecuting Attorney’s Association.


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