Kent's post about the two previously convicted killers who knifed to death (with 140 stab wounds) a fellow inmate recalls one of the strongest arguments against abolition of the death penalty: If you don't execute a cold-blooded, violent killer after his first go-round, he'll be there to do it again. The frequency with which these second-chance murders get committed never seems to get a story in the New York Times, but failure to cover reality does not make it less real.
Not three weeks ago, I wrote about a similar episode. The point of my post was to show how potent this argument is in death penalty debates. I noted that, in such a debate on Sentencng Law and Policy, a dozen abolitionists chimed in, and every one of them refused even to discuss this scenario.
Abolitionists ceaselessly contend that, because the death penalty is a human institution, there is an inescapable risk that, at some point, we are going to execute an innocent person. This is one of the things they say that's actually true (if remote). It is thus more than fair, and very valuable, to force them to confront the fact that the failure to use the death penalty has produced, not just the possiblility, but the demonstrated fact, of sacrificing the lives of the innocent, and has done so again and again.