Recently in Death Penalty Category

Abolitionism, Meet Reality

Pro-criminal interest groups and academics are constantly admonishing us that we should use "evidence-based sentencing."  The problem is that they don't want consideration of what any normal person would consider "evidence."  Instead, the "evidence" upon which we are told we should rest our gaze inevitably turns out to be  --  guess what  --  some tendentious "study" or "report" done by these self-same groups.

Actual evidence is not hard to come by, however.  You can find it just by opening your local paper, as I did over lunch.  Here's the headline I saw:

Maryland jury finds Darrell Bellard guilty in drug-related quadruple slaying.

The story is as depressing as it is instructive.
Lynne Tuohy reports for AP:

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire's Senate has voted to leave intact the state's centuries-old death penalty.

Lawmakers voted 12-12 Thursday on a death penalty repeal measure. The tie means capital punishment will stay on the books.

Last month, the House voted in favor of repeal, and Gov. Maggie Hassan (HASS'-ehn) had said she would sign the measure into law.

My understanding was that the governor had said she would sign it only if she were confident it would not prevent the execution of cop-killer Michael Addison.  Given the immediate attack on existing sentences in Connecticut, despite a very clear prospective-only clause in the bill, nobody can honestly guarantee that.

Hopefully the voters of New Hampshire, and other states, will elect more persons of sense in the coming election, the repeal threats will recede, and we can get back to the business of reforming the review process to make the penalty effective.
Here are a few notes on legislation on the death penalty in several states.

In Delaware, a bill to repeal the death penalty came up a vote short to get out of committee.  Representative John Atkins has this letter in the Cape Gazette.

In New Hampshire, a repeal bill squeaked out of committee on a 3-2 vote and heads to the floor of the Senate.  Supporters of the bill claim that it will apply prospectively only and not effect the death sentence of cop-killer Michael Addison, the state's lone death-sentenced inmate.  If the bill does pass, I would bet every penny I have that the death penalty opponents will then join Addison's efforts to claim that the bill does require his sentence to be set aside.  We already saw this in Connecticut.

Some years ago, the North Carolina legislature passed a stealth repeal by playing the race card and enacting legislation that enabled death row inmates to have their sentences overturned by producing statistics on race and the death penalty that don't actually prove anything.  The Death Penalty Quota Act (misnamed the Racial Justice Act) was repealed when persons of sense regained control of the legislature, but cases decided in a lower court before repeal were argued yesterday in the North Carolina Supreme Court. Martha Waggoner has this story for AP.

Why We Have the Death Penalty

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Today is the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.  Dozens of people received life-long, disfiguring injuries.  Three died: Krystle Campbell, 29; Chinese national Lu Lingzi, 23; and  Martin Richard, 8.  The latter was  to have started his first season in Little League in a few weeks.

The bombing was undertaken by two Jihadist brothers.  The older one was  killed after a shootout with police four days later.  The younger, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was captured and is awaiting trial in November.

No serious person is claiming there is doubt of his guilt, or that he's mentally or emotionally disabled, or that he acted other than intentionally, knowing full well what he was doing.  The defense, if you want to call it that, is that he was following his brother.

The New York Daily News has this retrospective.  The pictures are graphic, as they should be. The picture of Dzhokhar's sworn enemy, the scourge of the earth, the Great Satan, follows the break.

Still Guilty

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One of the staples of abolitionist lore is that we execute innocent people. Abolitionists squabble among themselves as to what the number is, although they largely coalesced around the Roger Keith Coleman innocence hoax as the star attraction.

Until it fell apart, that is.

Anyway, the current candidate is Cameron Todd Willingham, notwithstanding that his own lawyer attests to his guilt.

The latest attempt to bully Texas into reversing the jury's findings failed, proving to the Innocence Project "that the clemency system is completely broken in Texas."

More likely, it proves that after-the-fact "scientific evidence" adduced by those with an ideologically driven point of view still doesn't count as much as evidence produced in open court and tested by the adversarial process.

When Is a Repeal Not a Repeal?

When it is nothing more than a ratification of the long-existing status quo.

I bring this up because death penalty abolitionists are licking their chops over a vote this week in a committee of the New Hampshire Senate to abolish that state's death penalty. As the Washington Post reports, the vote was 3-2, and the state House of Representatives has already given overwhelming approval to the bill.

It the bill passes the full Senate (which, as the Post notes, is up in the air), abolitionists are certain to start up again with more op-eds about how "the death penalty is dying."

Well, not really.  As I have previously noted, among the states that have repealed the death penalty in recent years, it barely existed anyway.

This is especially so in New Hampshire.  The fact the Post fails to report is that the Granite State has not executed anyone since 1939.

Nothing Beats Wishful Thinking

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The NYT had an opinion box up yesterday titled, "What it Means if the Death Penalty is Dying."  Six people are given the chance to voice their views, four abolitionists and two supporters (if the opinion box reflected the electorate, the numbers would  be reversed).

But the main thing I want to note is the conditional  phrase, "...if the Death Penalty is Dying."

If the NYT took the trouble to report news instead of its wish list, it would know, as the not-so-conservative "Slate" has recently reported, that the death penalty, far from dying, seems to be healthier than it's been in quite some time.  Its popularity in parts of the world that (as someone should remind the Times) no longer regard themselves as  subservient to white people in Europe is strong and growing.  And the pace of executions in this county puts us on the path to having done, by year's end, 56 of them  --  the highest number in since 2005, and a little more than one each week.

Put that together with the Supreme Court's having twice recently turned away the latest in abolitionist obstructionism  --  the argument that the drug-producing pharmacy must be disclosed (in the Ferguson and most recently the Sells execution)  --  the NYT's opinion box might more appropriately have been titled, "What it Would Mean if the New York Times Stopped Publishing Its Wish List as News."
Joshua Keating has this post with the above title at Slate. "With India, Japan, and Indonesia rejoining the U.S., the world's largest democracies are death penalty countries and the practice has heavy popular support in all of them."

Should We Follow International Law?

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No.  We should follow the Constitution.  But we can learn from international law, absolutely. We can learn something this very day, as it happens, from the world's largest democracy. Too bad the Supreme Court didn't get it a few years back.

Perhaps evolving standards of respect for women, not to mention respect for the most minimal human decency, will bring about a change of heart.

P.S.  When abolitionists tell us that we should adhere to the opinions of the "international community," what they actually mean is that we should adhere to the opinions of white people in Europe.  The death penalty predominates among "people of color" (as the phrase goes) in the Orient, the Subcontinent, the Middle East, the Caribbean, most of Africa and most of North America. 

Executions and Pentobarbital

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Michael Graczyk reports for AP:

A serial killer was put to death Thursday in Texas after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his lawyers' demand that the state release information about where it gets its lethal injection drug.

Tommy Lynn Sells, 49, was the first inmate to be injected with a dose of newly replenished pentobarbital that Texas prison officials obtained to replace an expired supply of the powerful sedative.

Sells declined to give a statement. As the drug began flowing into his arms inside the death chamber in Huntsville, Sells took a few breaths, his eyes closed and he began to snore. After less than a minute, he stopped moving. He was pronounced dead 13 minutes later, at 6:27 p.m. CDT.

For all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the undisclosed sources, we see once again that the single-drug method with pentobarbital is the way to go for lethal injection.  Another murderer snores his way to eternity and removal to a higher court.

To the extent that anyone is faced with a potentially painful execution by the substitution of other drugs, the blame for that falls squarely on the shoulders of those obstructing the supply.  For a manufacturer to restrict resale of its product should be illegal.  It is a restraint of trade.  Eliminating the barriers to supply is the solution.

The Supreme Court orders are here and here.  No dissent is noted.

Execute Nidal Hasan. Now.

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We have another Ft. Hood shooting.  This time with "only" three victims dead, and many more wounded.

From what's being reported right at this moment, yesterday's rampage had nothing to do with Jihad.  That would distinguish it from the one conducted four and a-half years ago by then-Major Nidal Hasan.  Hasan hated America and said so.  He mowed down his fellow soldiers by ambush because they were in the Army of the Great Satan.

After years of litigating about his beard (that is not a typo), he was tried and sentenced to death.  Of course the sentence is nowhere close to being carried out, because of the endless, if frivolous, appeals you and I are paying for.

Enough.  A sane, civilized society makes sure of three things:  That we've got the right guy, that he did it intentionally, and that he was sufficiently mentally sound to know right from wrong.

We already know all those things about Hasan.  As this latest massacre should remind us (but won't), it's time to get moving.
Michael Moore is, in my view, a malevolent buffoon.  I won't even go into his antics and years of rancid anti-Americanism.  Still, as they say, every blind pig finds an acorn, and Mr. Moore seems to have found his.  Thus, as the Washington Examiner recounts:

Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore believes that whoever was responsible at General Motors for failing to recall a faulty ignition switch deserves death.

"I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested and made to pay for their pre-meditated decision to take human lives for a lousy ten bucks," he wrote.

I cannot agree that the death penalty is  warranted  in this case on the facts thus far known. But if even Michael Moore can understand that there are some cases so grotesque and hideous that only the death penalty can suffice, there may yet be hope for abolitionists.

The Delaware State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, the Delaware State Troopers Association, the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware and the Delaware Police Chiefs' Council have this letter in the Middletown Transcript:

All law enforcement groups in the State of Delaware have joined together to oppose Senate Bill 19, an initiative to strike from the Delaware Statutes what is commonly referred to as the "Death Penalty."

Never before in the history of the state has the law enforcement community come together to present one united voice. Representing over 5,000 individual members, this coalition includes the State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, the Delaware State Troopers Association, the Correctional Officers Association of Delaware and the Delaware Police Chiefs' Council.

On March 26, 2013, this initiative passed the Senate by a bare majority and now awaits action in the State House of Representatives. We view this action, and potential for action, as a direct threat to the welfare and safety of those that we represent and to the community at large that we have sworn to serve and protect.

Old-School Methods of Execution

With the difficulties in obtaining the needed drugs for lethal injection, legislators in some states have been proposing return to the methods of execution that lethal injection was adopted to replace.  Unfortunately, in most of the states where this is being proposed, the prior method is the electric chair.

Return to the electric chair is a thoroughly bad idea.  That method was held unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court, hardly a bastion of liberal judicial activism, in 2001 and by the Nebraska Supreme Court in 2008.  The last thing we need to do is reopen that can of worms.

The gas chamber is a different matter.  The constitutional attacks that were made on the gas chamber were not based on the method as such but on the particular gas, hydrogen cyanide.  Those attacks had some validity.  Cyanide is a bad way to go.  There are, however, other gases available that are both painless and easy to acquire.

Good News and Bad News

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The good news is that, as the News Scan reports, Missouri went ahead with the execution of Jeffery Ferguson, who abducted, stripped, raped and strangled to death a teenage girl, Kelli Hall.  The better news is that it did so after courts, including the Supreme Court, rejected what is becoming the tiresome challenge that the state refused to identify the pharmacy that supplied the execution drugs.

The bad news is that it took 25 years to get this done.  Ferguson committed the rape and murder on February 9, 1989.

The other bad news is that there continues to be no visible limit on just how sick some criminals can be.  Hence this story from East Moline, Illinois.  It starts:

An Illinois playground was [booby]-trapped with straight-edged razors glued to equipment frequented by children, reported.

The sharp razors were discovered by parents at Millennium Park in East Moline, near the state's western border with Iowa. The parents say their 2-year-old son was cut by one of the blades on the monkey bars.

Here's betting dollars  to doughnut holes that if and when the guy who did this  gets caught, his defense lawyer will pony up for a rent-a-shrink whose opening paragraph will contain the word "bi-polar."  Any takers?

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