Op-ed: Addressing false assumptions about the death penalty

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  • Palmetto Bug Columbia, SC
    Nov. 20, 2017 12:24 p.m.

    Lots of studies have shown the costs to bring a death penalty case to completion (i.e., execution) exceed the cost of housing a convict for the rest of their natural life. Maybe the gov't can make up some of these costs by negotiating plea deals with future criminals who want to avoid the death penalty but I haven't seen those studies. Also, innocent people may be less likely to take a plea deal, thus might be more at risk of an eventual death sentence.

    My opposition for the death penalty comes down to one thing: the justice system isn't perfect. Police, prosecutors, juries, and judges make mistakes.

    Unless we can guarantee no innocent persons are ever executed we should stop using the death penalty. The price of these mistakes far outweighs any gains that stem from executing the truly guilty. There are no doubt terrible monsters who commit the most heinous of crimes, and those people should be punished. But if those punishments allow for innocent people to be wrongly executed our governments are also guilty of murder.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 20, 2017 9:47 a.m.

    @milquetoasty
    RE: "2 bits, Who is making the argument that the death penalty is wrong, therefor we need to let convicted murders loose to murder more people? I have literally never heard that proposal"...
    ---
    I don't know.

    I never said anybody proposed that.

    What I said is that people who have murdered are eventually released (depending on the crime and their level of involvement). And some have offended again. It's just a fact (not a strawman).

    Even when kept in prison for life... some have killed or injured other prisoners and guards. They have nothing to lose. Just putting them in prison for life does not guarantee they will not offend again (in jail). It just limits the population they can re-offend on. But some do re-offend. I've heard horrible stories of what they do to visitors and prison guards. Somebody has to feed and protect a murderer who detests them and would do anything to hurt them for the rest of his life.

    That's a long time for some (some commit murder very young. Especially gang members).

    Somebody has to guard them and work with them every day for the rest of their life. They throw body fluids at their guards and fight with other prisoners.

  • Flying Finn Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 20, 2017 5:43 a.m.

    Charles Manson dies this past weekend. He typifies why we still have the death penalty in our country. Over the last nearly 50 years he was in prison it cost California tax payers over $3 million to warehouse him. The money could have been better spent rehabilitating a less evil youthfull offender.

  • Harrison Bergeron Holladay , UT
    Nov. 18, 2017 10:30 a.m.

    @ milquetoasty

    "I have no problem with incarcerating murderers to life in prison without the opportunity for parole, and I've yet to meet anyone who disagrees."

    The death penalty is what makes that possible. VIDAR pointed out that "If all those accused requested a trial it would shut down our system. Only 10% of cases go to trial." The threat of capital punishment allows prosecutors to plea bargain for life without parole. Without it, everyone would bargain for something less.

  • Harrison Bergeron Holladay , UT
    Nov. 18, 2017 10:30 a.m.

    @ milquetoasty

    "…is it not infinitely more wrong to sentence someone to death incorrectly, than to sentence them for any number of years wrongly incorrectly?"

    Substituting a greater injustice for a lesser injustice does not equal justice. In layman's terms: two wrongs don't make a right. In trying to right a potential handful of injustices, you would deny justice from the 99.9% who deserve it. You would rob justice from all of the murderers' victims, their families and society as a whole.

    On April 19, 2005 Timothy McVeigh attacked and killed 168 people (including 19 children) and injured over 600. To this day many of the survivors are left with permanent physical and emotional trauma; 219 children lost one or both parents.

    In just this one example, in order to prevent a handful of "greater" injustices, you would deny justice from Timothy McVeigh, the 168 people he killed, their families and society as a whole. Now multiply that by all of the terrible killers and their victims. It's like trading a car wreck for holocaust.

    Let's just try to improve our justice system to prevent wrongful convictions.

  • NBushman Prescott Valley, AZ
    Nov. 18, 2017 12:26 a.m.

    It was surprising to me that Mr. Miller would claim: “And there is simply no evidence that a wrongly convicted person has ever been put to death in the United States.” Please read Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy for evidence contradicting Mr. Miller’s claim.

  • milquetoasty Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 3:56 p.m.

    @ 2 bits

    Who is making the argument that the death penalty is wrong, therefor we need to let convicted murders loose to murder more people? I have literally never heard that proposal.

    I have no issue with life in prison with no chance of parole for convicted murderers.

    You are arguing against a straw man.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 3:26 p.m.

    If you insist the death penalty isn't a deterrent.... just think about it a minute.

    It may not deter the murderer in his first crime, but it's a 100% deterrent of him doing it in the future.

    How many murderers that were released have murdered again? It happens.

    How many murderers who got the death penalty killed another person? Zero!

    Obviously it's a deterrent. For future murders by that person. Don't know how you can deny that.

    Nothing will keep people who don't care about their own life or anybody else's life from committing that first crime (We don't live in a world where we can predict crimes before they happen). But we can prevent it from happening again...

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 3:20 p.m.

    @VIDAR
    RE: "Joe Hill however was most likely an innocent man executed in Utah"...
    ---
    How do you know that?

    Joe Hill was executed in 1915. Back then lots of strange stuff happened in law enforcement. We didn't have the tools, technology, video surveillance, DNA testing, and CSI stuff we have today to prove who committed a crime (to 100% certainty sometimes, the only time the death penalty should be used IMO).

    Joe Hill was not innocent. I would not have executed him, because we didn't have the technology to prove it like we have today. But I would also not call him "innocent".

    In 1914, John G. Morrison, a Salt Lake City area grocer and former policeman, and his son were shot and killed by two men. The same evening, Hill arrived at a doctor's office with a gunshot wound. Hill refused to explain who shot him. Even when convicted and sentenced to death... he refused to say who shot him.

    If you're innocent... why not expose who shot you?

    But he didn't. Because he knew how he got shot, and knew they could prove he was lieing if he blamed it on his wife, or a neighbor.

    He knew he could never expose how he got shot.

    That sound "Innocent" to you?

  • VIDAR Murray, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 1:55 p.m.

    Flying Finn - Salt Lake City, UT

    There are many that are both pro life and against the death penalty. The Catholic church is both pro life and against the death penalty so there is your first billion or so.

  • VIDAR Murray, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 1:36 p.m.

    Flying Finn - Salt Lake City, UT

    No I do not believe Bundy or Gilmore were innocent. Joe Hill however was most likely an innocent man executed in Utah. In January 2011 Colorado governor Bill Ritter pardoned Joe Arridy posthumously after it was clear they executed an innocent man. Also the following citizens are believed to have been innocent and executed in the last few decades Carlos Deluna, Ruben Cantu, David Spence, Gary Graham, Claude Jones, Cameron Willingham, Richard masterson, Lester Bower, Robert Pruett, Larry Griffin , Leo Jones Troy Davis, Brian Terrell. What do you call it when the state executes an innocent person?

  • Flying Finn Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 1:20 p.m.

    Hutterite - American Fork, UT

    The typical liberal has no problem terminating the life of an innocent unborn child but thinks cold blooded killers convicted by a jury of their peers should somehow be treated differently.

    The baby can't appeal his/her termination but the killer can. Just doesn't seem fair somehow.

  • milquetoasty Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 1:06 p.m.

    @ Harrison Bergeron

    As much as you're right about no punishment ever being "reversed," is it not infinitely more wrong to sentence someone to death incorrectly, than to sentence them for any number of years wrongly incorrectly?

    If it can't be demonstrated that the death penalty DRASTICALLY reduces the murder rate, there is no justifying keeping it. As a fundamental opponent of the death penalty, I have no problem with incarcerating murderers to life in prison without the opportunity for parole, and I've yet to meet anyone who disagrees.

    The idea that being anti-death penalty means being anti-punishment doesn't even make sense.

    Death is permanent, and not all of us believe that there is some kind of cosmic justice that we can look forward to if we were wronged in this life. I believe that this is the one shot we get, and wrongly taking that away from someone is the most heinous crime. Those convicted of murder can be removed from society effectively, without running the risk of spilling any more innocent blood.

  • Harrison Bergeron Holladay , UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 12:32 p.m.

    @ VIDAR

    The wrongful convictions argument is a logical fallacy. Eliminating capital punishment would not eliminate by consequence wrongful convictions. They would just be wrongfully punished in a different way. By this logic we should eliminate prison or any other punishment if wrongful convictions are a valid reason for eliminating punishment.

    You may argue that capital punishment is permanent and cannot be reversed. I would argue that no punishment can be reversed. For example, if you have wrongfully incarcerated someone for 10 years, you can never return those 10 years to them. And you have permanently taken the life they might have had.

    Two wrongs do not set un injustice right. To eliminate a deserved punishment for a killer, will never make up for wrongfully convicting someone else.

  • Flying Finn Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 11:45 a.m.

    VIDAR - Murray, UT

    So you're saying that Gary Gilmore and Ted Bundy may have been innocent?

  • VIDAR Murray, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 10:07 a.m.

    I disagree. The death penalty has been used to execute innocent persons; and will continue to do so. I would refer anyone who seriously wants to research this start with the innocence project. They not only work to free the innocent but also convict those who are actually guilty. To date, 351 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 20 who served time on death row; these people served an average of 14 years in prison before exoneration and release. Some say the answer is to execute those convicted quicker. If we had there would be at least these 20 innocent people executed. Until we can guarantee no innocent person will be executed we need to do away with the death penalty. Our system simply has too many problems: incentivized informants, inadequate defense, misapplication of forensic science, government misconduct, false confessions or admissions, eyewitness misidentification. On the other point the drop in crime has been more accurately attributed to the access to birth control.

  • Frozen Fractals Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 10:01 a.m.

    "to defend the indefensible — murder and rape. Advocating on behalf of monsters, the panel presented a largely fallacious and emotionally charge argument against the death penalty"

    That's quite an emotionally charged introduction there.

  • Rifleman Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 9:39 a.m.

    VIDAR - Murray, UT says: "We had better hope that criminals do not figure this out."

    Yes VIDAR, let's hope defense attornies never consider taking a case to trial.

    Meagan Grunwald was offered a plea deal in the shooting death of Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Cory Wride. She rejected the offer and instead of serving a minium of15 years in prison she got 30.

  • Thomas Jefferson Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 9:24 a.m.

    I get the desire to punish the worst criminals with the worst punishment available. I simply think that life in prison is far worse than death.

    I dont buy the 'the threat of the death penalty helps get plea bargains' argument either. And frankly if you cant get a conviction without a plea in a capital case then you shouldnt be prosecuting said case. Get enough evidence to convict. Prosecutors should stop pleading everything down to save themselves work.

    I dont buy for one minute that criminals, particularly people who commit murder, do a cost-benefit analysis where they weigh the possible punishment, be it death, life in prison, or a lifetime supply of ice cream before they commit their crimes. I find that a silly argument with no basis in reality.

    /And I have no doubt that these 'statistics' trotted out in the letter are being cherry picked and lack through analysis. Not believable.

  • VIDAR Murray, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 9:16 a.m.

    Harrison Bergeron - Holladay , UT

    If all those accused requested a trial it would shut down our system. Only 10% of cases go to trial. The right to a speedy trial would require for the majority of those accused to be just let go, or we could spend the money it would take to process the 90% extra court trials in a timely manner. More court houses, more judges, more juries. I have to wonder how many people it would take to fill all the juries, and how much we would lose in lost work. We had better hope that criminals do not figure this out.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Nov. 17, 2017 9:11 a.m.

    What would liberals have the State do with murderers and rapists? Set them free? Give them a medal?

    When a person kills another person, he cannot make restitution. He has removed from earth a human being. The just punishment is to remove the killer also.

    When a person rapes another person, he cannot make restitution. He has violated another person's procreation gift from God. He has also violated the most sacred norm in our society, the virtue of a woman. The just punishment is to remve the rapist.

    There is no argument that justifies caging a human being up in a small cell like an animal for the rest of his life. If he commits a capital offense, then justice demands capital punishment.

  • Dmorgan Herriman, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 8:44 a.m.

    When you fall for the false logic, correlation equals causation, coupled with cherry-picking your data, you'll inevitably reach a false conclusion. The Deseret News comment section doesn't appear to allow links. If it did, the data cited could be countered by more compelling and correct data, regarding rates of incarceration by ethnic group, numbers of persons on death row by ethnic group, and the true cost of life imprisonment vs. executions, and finally many studies showing that eliminating the death penalty does not result in a rise in murder rates.

  • Harrison Bergeron Holladay , UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 8:39 a.m.

    Streamlining the appeals process will improve things. There certainly is no reason for it to take more than two years. That will also reduce the cost dramatically.

    But these people always ignore one of the most beneficial aspects of capital punishment. Prosecutors use it all the time to get plea deals for life in prison from killers. Without the death penalty nobody would ever plea bargain for life in prison. Everyone would go to trial. They would have nothing to lose.

    Capital punishment saves our judicial system bazillions in jury trials that never happen.

  • 1aggie SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 8:31 a.m.

    “...However, for me and many of my former colleagues in other corrections agencies, our role in executions led to a deep sense of guilt, sleepless nights and permanent emotional damage.

    For me, unlike the “kill or be killed” mindset in war or other forms of self-defense, carrying out executions felt very much like participating in premeditated and rehearsed murder. Either from religious training (“thou shall not kill”) or established societal norms, every person knows that taking a human life is one of our culture’s most serious offenses. It exacts severe mental trauma — even when done under the auspices of state law. As I have written before: I don’t remember their names, but I still see their faces in my nightmares.”
    Allen Ault

  • 1aggie SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 8:16 a.m.

    Mr. Miller overstates the deterrent effect. There is no clear cut deterrent effect. There is also evidence of possible sentencing disparities.

    Just four countries considered to be industrialised still execute criminals: the US, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan.

    Sometimes the U.S. wrongly executes or sentences to death innocent people. (Not guilty of the crime for which they received the death penalty). The exoneration rate of death row inmates is estimated to be 4%.

    Lastly, one must consider those whose job it is to carry out the death sentence. Dr. Allen Ault, who oversaw executions in Georgia, wrote of his own suffering from PTSD, (which is not uncommon).

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 8:09 a.m.

    "Liberals fail when they attempt to use sarcasm to defend the inane."
    OK, but my statement wasn't sarcasm. And, I wasn't trying to defend, or decry, the death penalty. And, I don't neatly fit into the category of 'liberal', not that it's a crime if you do.
    I pointed out that, valid or not, it is not uncommon to hear people defend the death penalty based on it having quality as a deterrent. I've sat on debate teams where that argument is posited. The internet (check out deathpenaltycurriculum) has many sites that discuss deterrence. I, myself, don't know if it's true or not. It's clear arguments can be made either way, and this is by no means exact science.
    But, without sarcasm, I remain loyal to my original statement. People do, right or not, use the deterrence effect as an argument against the death penalty.

  • milquetoasty Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 7:54 a.m.

    The first time someone was exonerated post execution should've been the very last death sentence ever handed out, in my opinion.

    For proponents of the death penalty, answer this question for me. How many wrongful death sentences handed out by the GOVERNMENT is too much? For me, it's one. Can anyone even imagine how you would feel if someone you knew was sentenced to death by the state, only to be exonerated posthumously? I would likely become a crazy person.

    Some take pleasure in denying it, but our judicial system is filled with discrimination, racism, personal vendettas etc... How anybody is willing to trust other fallible humans with death sentencing is beyond me.

    "Since 1973, 144 people on death row have been exonerated. As a percentage of all death sentences, that's just 1.6 percent. But if the innocence rate is 4.1 percent, more than twice the rate of exoneration, the study suggests what most people assumed but dreaded: An untold number of innocent people have been executed."

    -"One in 25 Sentenced to death in the U.S. is Innocent, Study Claims," Newsweek, 4/28/14

    If that doesn't horrify you, I don't know what to say.

  • Rifleman Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 7:18 a.m.

    eastcoastcoug - Danbury, CT asks "whether the State should be in the business of putting people to death."

    Answer: When we drop bombs on terrorists in Afghanistan aren't we putting them to death?

    Are the lives of killers at home more sacred than the lives of killers in some far away country?

  • at long last. . . Kirksville , MO
    Nov. 17, 2017 7:02 a.m.

    There is no documented case where a murderer is executed that shows that individual murdered anyone else after the execution. The execution of murderers seems to be 100% effective in stopping them from further offenses.

    The only problem with the death penalty is the delay in doing it due to the outrageously long and repeated appeals process. Decrease the time between crime and punishment and the deterrent effect is increased on everything.

  • Rifleman Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 17, 2017 5:56 a.m.

    C'MON Hutterite - American Fork, UT
    Hutterite says: "It's usually trotted out as one of the staples people use when defending the death penalty."

    I'm sure that the robber who pulls a gun on a convenience store clerk stops to consider what happened to Gary Gilmore before deciding to do the same thing Gilmore did.

    Liberals fail when they attempt to use sarcasm to defend the inane.

  • eastcoastcoug Danbury, CT
    Nov. 16, 2017 11:26 p.m.

    Chopping off a man's hands will also prevent him from pick-pocketing and may serve as a grisly warning to others. Deterrent is not the most important issue here...it's whether the State should be in the business of putting people to death.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    Nov. 16, 2017 7:25 p.m.

    The death penalty is the only deterrent left for a man serving life in prison. A convicted murderer with no chance for parole has nothing to lose in assaulting a murdering a guard, prison doctor, teacher, or fellow inmate. A man senteced to 5 years doesn't deserve to be murdered by a fellow convict.

    The death penalty is the last deterrent in some cases.

    It can also serve as leverage to persuade a killer to provide important information to investigators. Cooperate and death penalty comes off the table. This leverage is probably the single biggest potential abuse of the death penalty, not an actual wrongful execution.

    A wrongly convicted man is several times more likely to be exonerated if he is on death row than if he is serving life.

    And whatever may have happened elsewhere or in the distant past, in the modern musical era there is zero chance Utah has ever executed an innocent man. 7 executions since the Supremes followed the constitution again. No doubt any of their guilt. From Gary Gillmore through HiFi murderer William Andrews to Ronnie Lee Gardner, there is no doubt of guilt, no question of the seriousness of the crimes.

    Utah properly uses capital punishment.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Nov. 16, 2017 7:05 p.m.

    "Where did these liberals come up with the bogus notion that the death penalty is designed to deter other criminals. It doesn't. You don't put drug dealers or rapists in prison to deter other drug dealers or rapists. "
    It's usually trotted out as one of the staples people use when defending the death penalty.

  • Rifleman Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 16, 2017 6:10 p.m.

    Where did these liberals come up with the bogus notion that the death penalty is designed to deter other criminals. It doesn't. You don't put drug dealers or rapists in prison to deter other drug dealers or rapists.

    The death penalty is a very prescribed punishment saved for the worst of the worst whose crimes meet very specific criteria.

  • 1hemlock Tooele, Utah
    Nov. 16, 2017 5:53 p.m.

    The problem is there is too much time between the verdict and the carrying out of the penalty (death sentence). The numbers of appeals should be reduced with probably a timeline set in so that appeals must be done in a fixed amount of time or they lose the ability to appeal.
    Recently Doug Wright (KSL radio host) on his show stated that he had begun to change his mind on the death penalty (IE was against it now except for heinous crimes). When he said that it made me wonder if the long appeal process for most of these cases and the increasing numbers of victims had made him and many others think it is only heinous if its more than 5 -6 murders. To the families that have had their loved one murdered it IS the most heinous or crimes.
    If from the time of conviction the penalty were carried out with in a year or two the deterrent factor would be obvious and the the murder rate would be way down.