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Recycled Cost Argument from the DPIC

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The anti-death-penalty spin doctors at the Death Penalty Information Center have issued yet another report banging the drum for abolition of the death penalty as a cost saving measure. Most of it appears to be recycling of the same stuff we have seen before. The present long course of review, with the accompanying long, expensive stays on death row, is assumed to continue indefinitely, assuming efforts to change this will fail. High trial costs resulting from the Supreme Court's high-handed and unjustified decision in Lockett v. Ohio are assumed to be permanent without considering what would change if that decision were overruled (as it should be).

The important point of deterrence, and the great savings in lives if the deterrence studies are correct, is brushed off in a few cavalier paragraphs. Radelet's misleading survey of criminologists is cited without mentioning the inconvenient truth that the criminologists are not the ones who have been doing most of the recent research in this area. DPIC claims "most experts conclud[e] that the relative rarity of executions and their concentration in a few states renders national conclusions about a deterrent effect to the death penalty unreliable." Yet the authority cited for that proposition is the Donohue and Wolfers article.  That article makes no such claim about what most experts conclude but criticizes some of the existing articles. The collection of abstracts that CJLF has compiled here shows that most of the research does indicate a deterrent effect, and DPIC very well knows that.

The one thing that is new is an attempt to refute the point I made in February that the existing studies fail to consider the savings that result when a murderer plea-bargains to a life sentence to avoid the death penalty. They announce, as if it proves something, that "Prosecutors in New Jersey said that abolition of the death penalty there in 2007 has made no difference in their ability to secure guilty pleas." Of course not. Every defense lawyer in New Jersey, and probably most murderers, knew that the state did not really have a death penalty because their state supreme court was making quite certain no one was executed. The study also states that this kind of plea bargaining is an unethical interference with the defendant's Sixth Amendment rights. Of course it is not. The Seventh Circuit discussed this issue in Corcoran v. Buss, 551 F.3d 703 (2008), which the Supreme Court sent back today to decide other issues without the slightest indication of any disapproval of the Sixth Amendment analysis.

2 Comments

Would law of the case now apply to the claims actually denied by the Seventh Circuit?

I don't see any reason why it would not.

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