Saturday, 24 January 2009

Death Penalty- by way of television medical dramas

In my role as part-time complete and utter sad sack (do let's pretend it's only a part-time position) I am a big fan of American medical dramas. This amuses me because I generally do not think much of a lot of American TV, or TV in general (but mind, they know how to do it well- anyone seen Madmen? Or Rome?) and the sight of blood and guts on any real medical show, or even on a British medical drama, has me reaching for the remote before you can say "O-neg, stat!!".

In the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy, the gang had to treat a man on death row. The storyline is by the by, but got me thinking about the issue again.

Grey's is set in Seattle, Washington. A state which I believe has 9 men on death row currently. It is by means comparable to Texas or Florida who execute shockingly high numbers each year, nay- each week. Including some who really shouldn't be - the mentally retarded and the innocent.

Washington is a pretty small state (in terms of population at least) in the Pacific North-West. It's a pretty leftie, Democrat state. Seattle, the biggest city in Washington brought much to the world of music, including Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana. It makes sense that the grunge scene could only have come out of pretty comfortable suburban americana!

But Washington unlike say California or Oregon, its friends on the Pacific coast, does actually execute people. It has since 1993 executed 4 people. 3 of these are what are known as 'volunteers' in that they give up their appeals rights and stop fighting execution. This is the same situation in Oregon, which has executed 2 volunteers since the death penalty was re-instated there, however it has not executed anyone under the modern Death penalty statute who has not given up their appeal rights). This is the man who did not volunteer for execution in Washington:

Charles Rodman Campbell
Hanged May 27, 1994
Convicted of killing 2 women, Renae Wicklund, her neighbor Barbara and Renae's nine year old daughter. Charles committed these murders while serving a prison sentence for the sexual assault of Renae Wicklund. At the time of the murders he was in work release. The state settled with the victim's families for 2.3 million dollars, for failing to notify the Wicklunds of Campbell's release status. Campbell refused to cooperate with the execution. He had to be moved from his cell using pepper spray and had to be forcibly strapped to a board so that he could be hanged. It took prison officials 90 seconds to place a hood on his head and to fix the noose before the trap door was opened.

Washington no longer uses hanging, and I think this case was the reason why.

I wasn't aware- until I watched the Grey's episode and then came to do some googling- that a Darold Stenson was due to be executed on 3 December of last year. His execution was stayed by the Federal Government, and currently there is an ongoing investigation as to new DNA evidence . Stenson has always maintained his innocence, and it is suggested that this evidence will show that he was framed.

I don't know much about the case. I am not suggesting that he is innocent. But if this was Texas, and not Washington, he would have been executed on 3 December. And then what of new evidence, that may have been missed in the original trial? The risk of executing an innocent person, even if it's a tiny risk, that awful risk must be so abhorrent that we cannot accept capital punishment in any configuration.

Obama's doing pretty well at the moment. I wonder if the constitutionality of the death penalty will be revisited under his presidency?

38 comments:

dudleysharp said...

You do not know what you are talking about.

The Death Penalty Provides More Protection for Innocents
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below
 
Often, the death penalty dialogue gravitates to the subject of innocents at risk of execution. Seldom is a more common problem reviewed. That is, how innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.
 
To state the blatantly clear, living murderers, in prison, after release or escape,  are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers.
 
Although an obvious truism, it is surprising how often  folks overlook the enhanced incapacitation benefits of the death penalty over incarceration.
 
No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.
 
Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed.
 
That is. logically, conclusive.
 
16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses, find for death penalty deterrence.
 
A surprise? No.
 
Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
 
Some believe that all studies with contrary findings negate those 16 studies. They don't. Studies which don't find for deterrence don't say no one is deterred, but that they couldn't measure those deterred.
 
What prospect of a negative outcome doesn't deter some? There isn't one . . . although committed anti death penalty folk may say the death penalty is the only one.
 
However, the premier anti death penalty scholar accepts it as a given that the death penalty is a deterrent, but does not believe it to be a greater deterrent than a life sentence. Yet, the evidence is compelling and un refuted that death is feared more than life.
 
Some death penalty opponents argue against death penalty deterrence, stating that it's a harsher penalty to be locked up without any possibility of getting out.
 
Reality paints a very different picture.
 
What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
 
What percentage of convicted capital murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
 
What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment.
 
This is not, even remotely, in dispute.
 
Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
 
Furthermore, history tells us that lifers have many ways to get out: Pardon, commutation, escape, clerical error, change in the law, etc.
 
In choosing to end the death penalty, or in choosing not implement it, some have chosen to spare murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives.
 
Furthermore, possibly we have sentenced 25 actually innocent people to death since 1973, or 0.3% of those so sentenced. Those have all been released upon post conviction review. The anti death penalty claims, that the numbers are significantly higher, are a fraud, easily discoverable by fact checking.
 
The innocents deception of death penalty opponents has been getting exposure for many years. Even the behemoth of anti death penalty newspapers, The New York Times,  has recognized that deception.
 
To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row . . . (1) This when death penalty opponents were claiming the release of 119 "innocents" from death row. Death penalty opponents never required actual innocence in order for cases to be added to their "exonerated" or "innocents" list. They simply invented their own definitions for exonerated and innocent and deceptively shoe horned large numbers of inmates into those definitions - something easily discovered with fact checking.
 
There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.
 
If we accept that the best predictor of future performance is past performance, we can, reasonably, conclude that the DNA cases will be excluded prior to trial, and that for the next 8000 death sentences, that we will experience a 99.8% accuracy rate in actual guilt convictions. This improved accuracy rate does not include the many additional safeguards that have been added to the system, over and above DNA testing.
 
Of all the government programs in the world, that put innocents at risk, is there one with a safer record and with greater protections than the US death penalty?
 
Unlikely.
 
Full report -All Innocence Issues: The Death Penalty, upon request.
 
Full report - The Death Penalty as a Deterrent, upon request
 
(1) The Death of Innocents: A Reasonable Doubt,
New York Times Book Review, p 29, 1/23/05, Adam Liptak,
national legal correspondent for The NY Times
 
copyright 2007-2009, Dudley Sharp
Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.
 
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail sharpjfa@aol.com 713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
 
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS, VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
 
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
 
Pro death penalty sites 
 
http://homicidesurvivors.com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx
 
www.dpinfo.comwww.cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
www.coastda.com/archives.html
www.lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
www.prodeathpenalty.com
http://yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2   (Sweden) www.wesleylowe.com/cp.html

dudleysharp said...

Is the Death Penalty Constitutional? Is this a serious question?
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below

Twice, the  5th Amendment authorizes execution.

(1) “ No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury . . . " and

(2) ". . . nor shall any person  . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law . . . ”.
 
The 14th amendment is, equally, clear:

" . . . nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law . . ."
 
Not surprisingly, over 200 years of US Supreme Court decisions support those amendments and the US Constitution in authorizing and enforcing the death penalty.

Some wrongly believe that the US Supreme Court decision, Furman v Georgia (1972), found the death penalty unconstitutional. It did not.

The decisions found that the statutory enforcement of the death penalty in the US was a violation of the 8th Amendment.

Based upon the death penalty being integral within the constitution, through the 5th and 14th amendments, I do not believe it will ever be found unconstitutional.

copyright 2007-2009 Dudley Sharp, Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail  sharpjfa@aol.com,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
 
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
 
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
 
Pro death penalty sites 

homicidesurvivors.com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspxwww.dpinfo.com
www.cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htmwww.coastda.com/archives.html see Death Penalty
www.lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm www.prodeathpenalty.com
http://yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2   (Sweden)
www.wesleylowe.com/cp.html

Mel said...

I hardly think it polite or respectful to start a comment with 'you do not know what you are talking about'. You have not given any citations for the statistics you quote.

Murderers, even capital murderers, are the least recidivist of all criminals. In the 2004 Texas Defender Service study (Deadly Speculation: Misleading Texas Capital Juries with False Predictions of Future Dangerousness) of 155 inmates, previously on death row, 95% of the predictions that they would go on to commit future acts of criminal violence were wrong, over the period of that study. One of those 155 went on to kill someone in prison when released into the general population. Not many lives would have been saved by executing the lot of them, then.

Choosing the life of a murdered over the life of an innocent? Hardly. In Oregon for instance, I do not know about other states' appeals processes but imagine then to just as drawn out, there is a 10-step appeals process. This is surely more expensive than life long, solitary imprisonment, and costs the state milions in legal and administrative fees. I would rather see that money spent on hospitals, schools, and police services - to protect society - than to re-hear a convicted murderer's case, with the family of the victims each time having to be dragged into court again.

When I refer to the constitutionality of the death penalty, I mean specifically 2 elements: the 'future dangerousness' question, relevant in Texas and Oregon which I believe is not constitutional as it does not rely on vigorous scientific procedures and evidence; and the lethal injection issue. Most of the visitors to my blog are not familiar with the ins and outs of specific death penalty statutes and I wrote my post with that in mind.

Lost said...

I am quite glad that England no longer has the death penalty.

How can American claim to be the land of the free, with such great rights if it doesn't protect the right to life?

It looks like Dudleysharp just googles "anything against the death penalty" however if he lived in England he would know that since we have had not had it for such a long time that we find it abhorrent.

3 million americans are in imprison thats 1/100 of americans. Theres approx 90,000 people in prison in the UK a shockingly different statistic 9/6,000.

The problem that American and currently what the UK is facing to, is the mass overpopulation in its prisons.

Solution? sling them in the electric chair/gas them/hang them.

I don't believe such practices should be acceptable anymore, plus as the old maxim goes "let ten guilty men go free, before one innocent man is convicted"

I don't care if they are innocent or not, the prison systems all over the world are largely failing to rehabilitate people. Dangerous people are being "killed" because they can't be looked after by the state.

And lets not go into the plethora of sociological reasons, of why these people are in prison in the first place/not mental health instituations instead.

Mel said...

Surely the idea that the death penalty is a deterrent is a non-starter. Are murder rates lower in states with the death penalty than those without? No, they are higher (http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/murder-rates-1996-2007)

Are murder rates in the USA generally lower than countries without the death penalty? No. While the same page above shows a national average of 5.6 murders per 100,000 people, the equivalent rate in Europe is 2.3 in Scotland, 0.7 in England and Wales, in Spain 1.02, and in Italy 0.96. Germany has western Europe's lowest murder rate: 0.68 per 100,000 people.

I assume you are aware that these countries do not carry the death penalty.
You also suggest that the deterrent effect of the death penalty is proved by the fact that no-one plea bargains for the death penalty. A spurious argument firstly; given that the death penalty is the highest sanction from the law's point of view, and so it would be no 'bargain' to push for the death penalty. Further, you ignore the fact that many convicts volunteer their legal rights to appeals and due process and do not fight execution.

The issue of deterrence is more complex than simply citing murder rates, or even recidivism rates. But there seems to be no evidence, beyond a flawed logical argument, that the death penalty deters people from committing aggravated murders.

Mel said...

Hey Lost, we must have posted at the same time.

If only 'more funding for mental health' was as good a vote-winner as 'put more people in prison'!

(As for the UK view of the death penalty, well we can't extradite anyone to the US if they have the chance of being on death row, it is torture under international law).

Swiss Tony said...

Mel, wow, you really do manage to find them don't you.

Lost, how can the solution to prison over crowding be 'sending them to the electric chair? Surely releasing them early (don't we do that) will reduce numbers muh quicker than 3 or 4 to the chair?

And Blunt Dudley, how does the law protect the innocent person, when in Mel's example they would only have found his innocence once he had the chop. (If indeed they do find anything to clear him)

Anyway, clearly in this situation 'I do not know what I am talking about' so will duck out.

Mel, you used to blog about food. Now you are into highbrow political and legal issues. Food was less controversial!

Swizzle

Mel said...

Swiss, they seem to find me!

Highbrow legal and political, moi? Never!

Giving Dudley the benefit of the doubt, I think he means that there is a long system of appeals before you can execute someone. But given the vast array of problems that can exist in legal systems (especially when you're talking about indigent defendants and publicly funded systems in countries that doesn't like to use tax money to pay lawyers) that doesn't solve the solution. And innocent people have died under the death penalty, when they shouldn't have.

I'm making a christening cake in a couple of weeks. I'll have icing in my eyebrows and flour up my nose before you know it!

Lost said...

Swizz that may have been a bad example that I used there!! I have no rebuttal at this current time my learned friend.

On a side note hmm cake.. I love baking!

Swiss Tony said...

Lost, No worries. I try not to get caught up in these highbrow things as my own personal views never seem to fit in with the clever people I try and mix with. Hang 'em high is Swizz's approach.

When you look at people that get released from prison and then re-offend (thinking of rape, murder, child abuse rather then shop lifting), then kill the buggers and stop their mini crime wave dead in its tracks.

I think too much sway is given to the pc brigade and 'peoples rights' movements.

Of course in a debate i would argue eloquently and forcefully against these things, but personally, frazzle the scumbags.

Luckily, I have no interest in practicing criminal law, so I can safely hold these views!

Mel, Christening cake? Blimey, don't tell me that you did the US bar exams while pregnant, had a baby on the flight back, and straight into Barschool? I think you are incredible as it is, let alone throwing a baby into the mix!!

oh, its for someone else?

Swizz

Mel said...

To quote Minx - Eeeek!

It is indeed for someone else. Boy's nephew, in fact. Blimey, the thought of my own nipper brings me out in hives.

Re the death penalty, I think there's two separate issues. 1- do you think people should be killed by the state as a criminal punishment ('fry', as you put it) and 2- can you create a rational, fair system of law in which the death penalty operates.

I personally, say no to the first one- but even if you do think it's right, I don't think the sheer expense of all those trials (http://www.drbilllong.com/LegalEssaysII/CostsII.html Bill Long, of Oregon here illustrates how the costs stack up, figures are out of date but still illustrative), expenses which are 4-5 times the cost of life imprisonment without parole.

So even if you think that the prisoner deserves to die, do you think they deserve to have millions spent on them to achieve that? Money that could be spent on schools, building more prisons, healthcare etc? I don't see how even if you say yes to no 1) you could ever really think that a rational system of law could be created to meet 2).

Death penalty for anything less than aggravated murder- unconstitutional even in the States I'm afraid!

Now, where's that cake book...

Swiss Tony said...

Mel, didn't we have the death penalty for years and years? When we did last have it, did we go to enormous expense to prove we were right, or did we just take the juries word for the fact that they were guilty.

I reckon all the expense only comes into it to appease the civil rights stuff and to show that every precaution was taken.

Victims and those affected by crime are not so bothered by the rights of a scumbag, and if they get frazzled then justice has been done.

Of course, we don't have to hook all murders up to the mains, although it wouldn't bother me, but take the Yorkshire Ripper, Ian Huntley and Ian Bradey, get them to stand in a bowl of water while holding hands and a piece of wire, and most people would happily flick the switch. I would also be prepared to pay the leccy bill. So no cost to the state.

I think what i am saying is, yes to 1, and no reason for silly costs to 2. I appreciate that there will be miscarriages of justice, but if any of the 3 I listed are innocent then I will eat my hat.

Phew, to the bambino. I know you are wonderwoman, but there must be limits to even your powers.

Swizz

Mel said...

Ah, the 'worst of the worst' argument, the idea that the death penalty is reserved for the worst killers. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that, different juries, different prosecutors etc. I recommend this book: http://www.amazon.ca/Life-Death-Decision-Weighs-Penalty/dp/product-description/0230600638
It's a really good read, shows how mitigating evidence affects the jury, such that the 'worse' killer gets life imprisonment, and the one that seems less objectionable on the fact of it gets a death sentence. OR something like that, a very good read anyway. Point is, juries tend to think that all the guys in front of them are the 'worst of the worst', and telling them that he isn't a Moors killer or Hitler just tends to be insulting to them.

My two questions sort of assume that you have to have due process and civil rights catered for. Pesky human rights, I know, but still!

Wonderwoman, eh? I once dressed up as her for a party. Outfit doesn't leave you much room to stash canapés, I'll tell you that much!

Swiss Tony said...

Mel, if you are looking for an intelligent debate analysing the pro's and con's, then I am not your man. Hang 'em high, frazzle all scumbags and give ASBO's to old grannies that can't push a shopping trolley properly.

I could only respond to what you said by saying, 'Just because it is, doesn't mean it has to be' Change the rules to execute the bad 'uns and leave the rest in prison.

But what do I care. As long as I don't get stitched up for a crime I didn't commit then lock all villains up and throw away the key.

Bring back the birch and National Service. Damn it all, lets introduce chopping hands off too.

As far as I am concerned, civil liberties has taken the country back decades.

I will grant you that look beneath the surface and my point of view fails miserably to stand up to any proper debate, but I also have strange views on supermarkets and car parks. (And don't get me started on refuse collection, recycling, or global warming)

Swizz on a soapbox

dudleysharp said...

Mel"

I agree, completely, I shouldn't have statrted that way.

My apologies.

What statistics do you want?

Not many ives saved, Mel? What is not many, give me a number that for you is not many.

At least 8% of those on death row had murdered at least one person PRIOR to the murder or murders they committed to get them on death row.

That's at least 640 additonal murdered folks just for that very small groupd sent to death row.

First, all of the courts that have heard it disagree with you on the "future dangerousness issue. All of them.

Secondly, constitutionally all that is required is that jurors find it reasonale that the murderer will be a future danger.
That's it. 70% of those on death row had been imprioned before.

thirdly, future dangerousness ought to be taken out of the Texas and Oregon statute. It is way too big of a burden on the prosecutor and way too important an issue of appeal for the inmate and it is not constitutionally required.

Get rid of it!

Thirdly, the majority of infractions in prion are not reported or even found out and the overwhelming number of crimes in the US are not solved. Crime statistics, regarding un prosecuted crimes, will show you have vast those crimes are.

Based upon prior known acts, as well as the murder case on trial, virtually anyone with any sense would conclude they are a future danger.

dudleysharp said...

Re: The constitutionality of lethal injection

Lethal Injection: Current Controversies Resolved
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info, below
 
Several issues have come up with regard to lethal injection.
 
Generally, they are:
1) The murderer experiencing pain during execution;
2) The ethics of medical professionals participating in executions; and
3) Proper training of execution personnel.
 
1) PAIN AND LETHAL INJECTION
 
The evidence, including the immediate autopsy of executed serial murderer/rapist Michael Ross, supports that there is no pain within the lethal injection process.

There is a concern that some inmates may be conscious, but paralyzed, during execution, because one of the three drugs used may have worn off, prior to death.
 
There is rare evidence this may have occurred. There is a lot of speculation.
 
If properly administered, it cannot occur with the properties and amounts of the chemicals used and within the time frame of an execution.

An Associated Press reporter correctly stated that  "there is little to support those claims except a few anecdotes of inmates gasping and convulsing and an article in the British medical journal Lancet." (AP, "Death penalty foes attack lethal-injection drug", 7/5/05)
 
The British Medical Journal, The Lancet, published an article critical of lethal injection (Volume 365, 4/16/05). A follow up article, by essential the same group of researchers, published a similar report in PLoS Medicine on 4/24/07.

The articles did not/could not identify one case where evidence existed than an inmate was conscious during execution.  

The Lancet article identified 21 cases of execution where the level of "post mortem" (after death) sodium thiopental was below that used in surgery and, therefore,  may suggest consciousness was possible. 

A more accurate description would be all but impossible.
 
A "long after execution" post mortem measurement of sodium thiopental is very different from a moment of death measurement.

Dr. Lydia Conlay, chair of the department of anesthesiology, Baylor College of Medicine (Texas Medical Center, Houston) said the extrapolation of postmortem sodium thiopental levels in the blood to those at the time of execution is by no means a proven method. "I just don't think we can draw any conclusions from (the Lancet study) , one way or the other."
 
Actually, we can. The science is well known.  Sodium thiopental is absorbed rapidly into the body. Long after execution blood testing of those levels means absolutely nothing with regard to the levels at the time of execution.  Nothing.
 
The Lancet article did not dispute the obvious --  for executions,  the sodium thiopental is administered in dosages roughly 10-20  times the amount necessary for sedation unconsciousness during surgical procedures.

Unconsciousness occurs within the first 30 seconds of the injection/execution process. The injection of the three drugs takes from 4-5 minutes. Death usually occurs within 6-7 minutes and is pronounced within 8-10 minutes.

The researchers also failed to note the much lower probability (impossibility?) that the murderer could be conscious, while all three drugs are coursing through the veins, concurrently.
 
Despite the Lancet article's presumptions and omissions, there is no scientific evidence that consciousness with pain has occurred with the amounts and methods of injecting those three chemicals within the execution period.
 
The AP article also stated that "They (death penalty opponents)  also attack lethal injection by saying that the steps to complete it haven't been reviewed by medical professionals."
 
That is both deceptive and irrelevant.
 
The unchallenged reality is that medical professionals have both reviewed and implemented injection procedures for decades. The same procedures are used in executions. Criminal justice professionals have been trained in this application.

Does anyone not know this?

The chemicals used in lethal injection, as well as their individual and collective results, at the dosages used, are also well known by medical and pharmacology professionals.
 
Dr. A. Jay Chapman, the former Oklahoma Medical Examiner, who created the protocol, consulted a toxicologist and two anesthesiologists. He states the obvious " ' . . .it didn't actually require much research because the three chemicals - a painkiller, a muscle-paralyzing agent and a heart-stopper - are well-known to physicians.' 'It is anesthetizing someone for a surgical procedure, but simply carried to an extreme.' 'If it is competently administered, there will be no question about this business of pain and suffering.' "("Lethal Injection Father Defends Creation", Paul Ellias, Associated Press, 5/10/07)

Further, lethal injection is not a medical procedure, but the culmination of a judicial sentence carried out by criminal justice professionals, the result of which is intended as death, the outcome of every case. 
 
The follow up research/article is "Lethal Injection for Execution: Chemical Asphyxiation?"(Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine, 4/24/07). Dr. Koniaris was an author in both this and the Lancet article.

The question mark from the title says it all.
 
From the Conclusion:
 
" . . . our findings suggest that current lethal injection protocols "MAY" not reliably effect death through the mechanisms intended, indicating a failure of design and implementation. "IF" thiopental and potassium chloride fail to cause anesthesia and cardiac arrest, potentially aware inmates "COULD" die through pancuronium-induced asphyxiation." (Underline, quote , caps and color change are mine, for emphasis)
 
In other words, the authors tell us they cannot prove this has ever happened. They are speculating.

In Belgium and the Netherlands, Pancuronium (the paralytic) is recommended in the protocol for euthanasia. After administering sodium thiopental to induce coma, Pancuronium is delivered in order to stop breathing.(1)

Exactly the first two drugs in lehtl injection.

Skip the speculation: Some Reality

From Hartford Courant, "Ross Autopsy Stirs Execution Debate----Results Cited To Counter Talk Of Pre-Death Pain", August 11, 2005

The below is a paraphrase of parts of that article, including some exact quotes.

Results of the autopsy done on serial killer Michael Ross are being cited by several prominent doctors to refute a highly publicized article that appeared in The Lancet, the British medical journal, in April, 2005.

Critics of the Lancet article say it does not account for postmortem redistribution of the anesthetic - thiopental. The redistribution, the critics say, accounts for the lower levels of thiopental on which Dr. Koniaris based his Lancet article conclusions that the levels of anesthetic were inadequate. The Ross autopsy results document this redistribution, bolstering the critics' assertions.

Dr. H. Wayne Carver II, Connecticut's chief medical examiner, was aware of the controversial Lancet article before performing the Ross autopsy. As a result, he took the additional step of drawing a sample of Ross's blood 20 minutes after he was pronounced dead at 2:25 a.m. May 13. Carver took a subsequent sample during the autopsy, which began about 7 hours later, at 9:40 a.m.

The 1st sample showed a concentration of 29.6 milligrams per liter of thiopental; the second sample showed a concentration of 9.4 milligrams per liter. The 1st sample was drawn from Ross' right femoral artery, and the second from his heart, which can account for some of the discrepancy. But Dr. Mark Heath, a New York anesthesiologist and one of the numerous doctors who have signed letters to The Lancet challenging the Koniaris article, said it clearly substantiates the postmortem redistribution of the thiopental.

Dr. Jonathan Groner, a pediatric surgeon from Ohio said he interviewed a number of forensic toxicologists before adopting the view that thiopental in a corpse leaves the blood and is absorbed by the fat, causing blood samples taken hours after death to be an unreliable marker of the levels of thiopental in the body at the time of death.

Groner described the Ross autopsy results as "a powerful refutation" of the Lancet-Koniaris study.

Dr. Ashraf Mozayani, a forensic toxicologist with the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office in Texas, said the level of thiopental "drops quite a bit" after death. Even in the living, Mozayani said, thiopental levels decline rapidly after administration of the drug. She cited one study in which a patient was administered 400 milligrams of thiopental intravenously. After two minutes the concentration in the blood was measured at 28 milligrams, but dropped to 3 milligrams concentration 19 minutes after the anesthetic was injected.

Mozayani said the declining concentration of thiopental cited in the Ross autopsy report "make sense."

On The Lancet article, she said, "I don't think they have the whole story - the postmortem redistribution and all the other things they have to consider for postmortem testing." 

NOTE: I think they had and knew the whole story. They just didn't include it in their report(s).
 
The Veterinary sidetrack
 
Opponents of the death penalty, as well as other uninformed or deceptive sources, have been stating that even vets do not use the paralytic agent in the euthanasia of animals. This is a perversion of the veterinary position, which actually provides support, however unintended, for the human execution process.
Some fact checking is in order  -- www(dot)avma.org/issues/animal_welfare/euthanasia.pdf
 
 NOTE: That said, it might easier to have only a one drug - an anesthetic - execution and I am not sure why it isn't being done, with the possible exceptions that I have read that it may result in 1) much longer execution time and 2) a deep coma, not death (1)

In April, 2008, The US Supreme Court found lethal injection constitutional and not a violation of the 6th Amendment. The final vote was 7-2 in Baze v. Rees (07-5439).


2.  THE MEDICAL/ETHICAL DILEMMA

Medical groups cite that there is an ethical conflict for participation in the lethal injection process, because medical professionals have a requirement to "do no harm".
 
Those ethical codes pertain to the medical profession, only, and to  patients, only. Judicial execution is not part of the medical profession  and death row inmates are not patients.
 
Doctors and nurses can be police and soldiers and can kill, when deemed appropriate,  within those lines of duty and without violating the ethical codes of their medical profession. Similarly, medical professionals do not violate their codes of ethics, when acting as technical experts, for executions, in a criminal justice procedure.
 
Physicians are often part of double or triple blind studies where there is hope that the tested drugs may, someday, prove beneficial. The physicians and other researchers know that many patients, taking placebos or less effective drugs, will suffer more additional harm or death because they are not taking the subject drug or that the subject drug will actually harm or kill more patients than the placebo of other drugs used in the study.
 
Physicians  knowingly harm individual patients, in direct contradiction to their "do no harm" oath.
 
For the greater good, those physicians sacrifice innocent, willing and brave patients. Of course, there have been medical experiments without consent and, even, today, they continue ("Critical Care Without Consent", Washington Post, May 27, 2007; Page A01).
 
The greater good is irrelevant, from an ethical standpoint, if "Do no harm" means "do no harm".  Physicians knowingly make exceptions to their "do no harm" requirement, every day, within their profession, where that code actually does apply. And, they should. There are obvious moral and ethical nuances and we should consider and pay attention to them, as is done within the medical profession.
 
The "do no harm" has no ethical effect in a non medical context, because this ethical requirement is for medical treatments, only, and for patients, only.

The classic Hippocratic oath, primarily prohibits abortion and euthanasia, two practices commonly accepted by many physicians.  Do you see medical groups  doing everything they can to stop those two practices? Of course not. Medical groups simply pick and chose what they like, based upon their own personal preferences, not some iron clad ethical code - a code and oath which they simply discard whenever it is convenient. Is it now the Hypocrisy Oath?

There is no ethical connection between medicine and lethal injection. Therefore, there is no ethical prohibition for medical professionals to participate in executions.
 
To put it clearly: The execution of death row inmates is not equivalent or connected to the treatment of patients. 
 
Is this a mystery?

The acknowledged anti death penalty editors of The Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine agree. They write:

"Execution by lethal injection, even if it uses tools of intensive care such as intravenous tubing and beeping heart monitors, has the same relationship to medicine that an executioner's axe has to surgery."  ("Lethal Injection Is Not Humane", PLoS, 4/24/07).

The PLoS Medicine editors have made the same point many of us have been making - similar acts and similar equipment do not establish any equivalence or connection.

Obviously, execution is not a medical treatment, but a criminal justice sanction. The basis for medical treatment is to improve the plight of the patient, for which the medical profession provides obvious and daily exceptions. The basis for execution is to carry out a criminal justice sentence where death is the sanction. 

Justice, deterrence, retribution, just punishments, upholding the social contract, saving innocent life, etc.,  are all recognized as aspects of the death penalty, all dealing with the greater good.
 
Are murderers on death row willing participants? Of course. They willingly committed the crime and, therefore, willingly exposed themselves to the social contract of that jurisdiction.

Lethal injection is not a medical procedure. It is a criminal justice sanction authorized by law. Therefore, there is no ethical conflict with medical codes of conduct and medical personal participating in executions.
 
Any participation in executions by medical professionals should be a matter for their own personal conscience. In fact, 20-40% of doctors surveyed would participate in the execution process.
 
A side note:

40,000 to 100,000 innocents die, every year, in the US because of medical misadventure or improper medical treatment. (2)
 
Do no harm? The doctor doth protest too much, methinks.
 
There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US since 1900.
 

3. PROPER TRAINING
 
In every state, there are hundreds or thousands of people trained for IV application of drugs or the taking of blood.  Even many hard core drug addicts are proficient in IV application.
 
There are very few errors in lethal injections which can be attributed to personnel error. The simple fact is that, if necessary,  non medical personnel can be properly trained to mix and administer the chemicals used in lethal injection.  But, it isn't necessary.
 
It appears that some 500-1000 innocent patients die, every year, in the US, due to some type of medical misadventure, with anesthesia. (2)

I am unaware of evidence that shows criminal justice professionals are more likely to commit critical errors in the lethal injection process than are medical professionals in IV application.
 
Furthermore, even with errors in lethal injection, those cases resulted in the death of the inmate - the intended outcome for the guilty murderer.
 
In the errors of medical professionals, we are speaking of a large number of deaths and injuries to innocent patients - the opposite of the intended outcome.

1)  The following is a Dutch protocol for parenteral (intravenous) administration to obtain euthanasia:
Intravenous administration is the most reliable and rapid way to accomplish euthanasia and therefore can be safely recommended. A coma is first induced by intravenous administration of 20 mg/kg sodium thiopental (Nesdonal) in a small volume (10 ml physiological saline). Then a triple intravenous dose of a non-depolarizing neuromuscular muscle relaxant is given, such as 20 mg pancuronium bromide (Pavulon) or 20 mg vecuronium bromide (Norcuron). The muscle relaxant should preferably be given intravenously, in order to ensure optimal availability. Only for pancuronium bromide (Pavulon) are there substantial indications that the agent may also be given intramuscularly in a dosage of 40 mg.

wweek.com/___ALL_OLD_HTML/euthanasics.html
 
 
2) "Deaths from Medical Misadventure"at
                   www(dot)wrongdiagnosis.com/m/medical_misadventure/deaths.htm
                   and
                  "Health Grades Quality Study: Patient Safety in American Hospitals, July 2004" 
                  www.(dot)healthgrades.com/media/english/pdf/HG_Patient_Safety_Study_Final.pdf

originally written May, 2005. Updated as merited.
 
copyright 2005-2009 Dudley Sharp - Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.
 
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail  sharpjfa@aol.com,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
 
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
 
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
 

dudleysharp said...

Lost show me where there is an absolute "protect the right to life?"

The Death Penalty: Not a Human Rights Violation
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters

Some wrongly state that executions are a human rights violation. The human rights violation argument often comes from European leadership and human rights organizations.

The argument is as follows: Life is a fundamental human right.  Therefore, taking it away is a fundamental violation of human rights.

Those who say that the death penalty is a human rights violation have no solid moral or philosophical foundation for making such a statement.  What opponents of capital punishment really are saying is that they just don't approve of executions.

Certainly, both freedom and life are fundamental human rights.  On this, there is virtually no disagreement.  However, again, virtually all agree, that freedom may be taken away when there is a violation of the social contract. Freedom, a fundamental human right, may be taken away from those who violate society's laws.  So to is the fundamental human right of life forfeit when the violation of the social contract is most grave.

No one disputes that taking freedom away is a different result than taking life away.  However, the issue is the incorrect claim that taking away fundamental human rights -- be that freedom or life -- is a human rights violation.  It is not.  It depends specifically on the circumstances. 

How do we know?  Because those very same governments and human rights stalwarts, rightly, tell us so.  Universally, both governments and human rights organizations approve and encourage taking away the fundamental human right of freedom, as a proper response to some criminal activity.

Why do governments and human rights organizations not condemn just incarceration of criminals as a fundamental human rights violation?  Because they think incarceration is just fine.

Why do some of those same groups condemn execution as a human rights violation? Only because they don't like it.  They have no moral or philosophical foundation for calling execution a human rights violation.

In the context of criminals violating the social contract, those criminals have voluntarily subjected themselves to the laws of the state.  And they have knowingly placed themselves in a position where their fundamental human rights of freedom and life are subject to being forfeit by their actions.

Opinion is only worth the value of its foundation.  Those who call execution a human rights violation have no credible foundation for that claim.  What they are really saying is "We just don't like it."

copyright 2005-2009 Dudley Sharp
Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters

dudleysharp said...

Lost: says Britain does not have the death penalty because we find it "abhorrent".

I saw a poll from England, not too long ago, that said 70-80% of Brits supported the death penalty for the rape and murder of children.

This, from the French daily Le Monde, December 2006 (1):

Percentage of respondents in favor of executing Saddam Hussein:  
Great Britain: 69%
France: 58%
Germany: 53%
Spain: 51%
Italy: 46%
USA: 82%

We are led to believe there isn't death penalty support in England or Europe. European governments won't allow executions when their populations support it: they're anti democratic. (2)

(1) The recent results of a poll conducted by Novatris/Harris for the French daily Le Monde on the death penalty shocked the editors and writers at Germany's left-leaning SPIEGEL ONLINE (Dec. 22, 2006). When asked whether they favored the death penalty for Saddam Hussein, a majority of respondents in Germany, France and Spain responded in the affirmative.

(2)An excellent article, “Death in Venice: Europe’s Death-penalty Elitism", details this anti democratic position (The New Republic,  by Joshua Micah Marshall, 7/31/2000). Another situation reflects this same mentality. "(Pres. Mandela says 'no' to reinstating the death penalty in South Africa - Nelson Mandela against death penalty though 93% of public favors it, according to poll. "(JET, 10/14/96). Pres. Mandela explained that ". . . it was necessary to inform the people about other strategies the government was using to combat crime." As if the people didn't understand. South Africa has had some of the highest crime rates in the world in the ten years, since Mandela's comments. "The number of murders committed each year in the country is as high as 47,000, according to Interpol statistics." As of 2006, 72% of South Africans want the death penalty back. ("South Africans Support Death Penalty",  5/14/2006,  Angus Reid Global Monitor : Polls & Research).

dudleysharp said...

Lost:

You are lost in hyperbole.
You write:

"The problem that American and currently what the UK is facing to, is the mass overpopulation in its prisons. Solution? sling them in the electric chair/gas them/hang them."

Reality: Less than 10% of all murders are deth penalty eligile.

Even if we convicted and executed all of them, it would no have a percentage point effect on prison population.

dudleysharp said...

Mel:

On deterrence and murder rates.

Death Penalty and Deterrence: Let's be clear
by Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, 0104
 
In their story, "States With No Death Penalty Share Lower Homicide Rates", The New York Times did their best to illustrate that the death penalty was not a deterrent, by showing that the average murder rate in death penalty states was higher than the average rate in non death penalty states and, it is. (1)
 
What the Times failed to observe is that their own study confirmed that you can't simply compare those averages to make that determination regarding deterrence.
 
As one observer stated: "The Times story does nothing more than repeat the dumbest of all dumb mistakes — taking the murder rate in a traditionally high-homicide state with capital punishment (like Texas) and comparing it to a traditionally low-homicide state with no death penalty (like North Dakota) and concluding that the death penalty doesn't work at all. Even this comparison doesn't work so well. The Times own graph shows Texas, where murder rates were 40 percent above Michigan's in 1991, has now fallen below Michigan . . .". (2)
 
Within the Times article, Michigan Governor John Engler states, "I think Michigan made a wise decision 150 years ago," referring to the state's abolition of the death penalty in 1846.   "We're pretty proud of the fact that we don't have the death penalty."(3)
 
Even though easily observed on the Times' own graphics, they failed to mention the obvious. Michigan's murder rate is near or above that of 31 of the US's 38 death penalty states. And then, it should be recognized that Washington, DC (not found within the Times study) and Detroit, Michigan, two non death penalty jurisdictions, have been perennial leaders in murder and violent crime rates for the past 30 years. Delaware, a jurisdiction similar in size to them, leads the nation in executions per murder, but has significantly lower rates of murders and violent crime than do either DC or Detroit, during that same period.
 
Obviously, the Times study and any other simple comparison of jurisdictions with and without the death penalty, means little, with regard to deterrence.
 
Also revealed within the Times study, but not pointed out by them,: "One-third of the nation's executions take place in Texas—and the steepest decline in homicides has occurred in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas, which together account for nearly half the nation's executions." (4)
 
And, the Times also failed to mention that the major US jurisdiction with the most executions is Harris County (Houston, Texas), which has seen a 73% decrease in murder rates since resuming executions in 1982 -- possibly the largest reduction for a major metropolitan area since that time.
 
Also omitted from the Times review, although they had the data, is that during a virtual cessation of executions, from 1966-1980, that murders more than doubled in the US. Any other rise and fall in murders, after that time, has been only a fraction of that change, indicating a strong and direct correlation between the lack of executions and the dramatic increase in murders, if that is specifically what you are looking for.
 
If deterrence was measured by direct correlation's between execution, or the lack thereof, and murder rates, as implied by the Times article, and as wrongly assumed by those blindly accepting that model, then there would be no debate, only more confusion. Which may have been the Times' goal.
 
Let's take a look at the science.
 
Some non death penalty jurisdictions, such as South Africa and Mexico lead the world in murder and violent crime rates. But then some non death penalty jurisdictions, such as Sweden, have quite low rates. Then there are such death penalty jurisdictions as Japan and Singapore which have low rates of such crime. But then other death penalty jurisdictions, such as Rwanda and Louisiana, that have high rates.
 
To which an astute observer will respond: But socially, culturally, geographically, legally, historically and many other ways, all of those jurisdictions are very different. Exactly, a simple comparison of only execution rates and murder rates cannot tell the tale of deterrence. And within the US, between states, there exist many variables which will effect the rates of homicides.

See REVIEW, below
 
And, as so well illustrated by the Times graphics, a non death penalty state, such as Michigan has high murder rates and another non death penalty state, such as North Dakota, has low murder rates and then there are death penalty states, such as Louisiana, with high murder rates and death penalty states, such South Dakota, with low rates. Apparently, unbeknownst to the Times, but quite obvious to any neutral observer, there are other factors at play here, not just the presence or absence of the death penalty. Most thinking folks already knew that.
 
As Economics Professor Ehrlich stated in the Times piece and, as accepted by all knowledgeable parties, there are many factors involved in such evaluations. That is why there is a wide variation of crime rates both within and between some death penalty and non death penalty jurisdictions, and small variations within and between others.  Any direct comparison of only execution rates and only murder rates, to determine deterrence, would reflect either ignorance or deception.
 
Ehrlich called the Times study "a throwback to the vintage 1960s statistical analyses done by criminologists who compared murder rates in neighboring states where capital punishment was either legal or illegal." "The statistics involved in such comparisons have long been recognized as devoid of scientific merit." He called the Times story a "one sided affair" devoid of merit. Most interesting is that Ehrlich was interviewed by the Time's writer, Fessenden, who asked Ehrlich to comment on the results before the story was published. Somehow Ehrlich's overwhelming criticisms were left out of the article.
 
Ehrlich also referred Fessenden to some professors who produced the recently released Emory study. Emory Economics department head, Prof. Deshbakhsh "says he was contacted by Fessenden, and he indicated to the Times reporter that the study suggested a very strong deterrent effect of capital punishment." Somehow,
Fessenden's left that out of the Times story, as well. (5).
 
There is a constant within all jurisdictions -- negative consequences will always have an effect on behavior.

Maybe the Times will be a bit more thoughtful, next time.

REVIEW

"The List: Murder Capitals of the World", 09/08, Foreign Policy Magazine
Capital punishment (cp) or not (ncp)
murder rates/100,000 population
 
4 out of the top 5  do not have the death penalty
 
1. Caracas (ncp), Venezuela 130-160
Bad policing.
2. New Orleans (cp), La, USA  69-95
Variable because of different counts in surging population. Drug related.
Nos 2 & 3 in US, Detroit (ncp), 46 and Baltimore (cp), 45.
3. Cape Town (ncp), South Africa 62
Most crimes with people who know each other.
4.  Port Mores (ncp), Papua New Guinea 54
Chinese gangs, corrupt policing
5. Moscow (ncp), Russia 9.6
various
 
Of the Top 10 Countries With Lowest Murder Rates  (1), 7 have the death penalty

O f the Top 10  Countries With Highest Murder Rates  (2), 5 have the death penalty

Top 10 Countries With Lowest Murder Rates
Iceland   0.00 ncp
Senegal   0.33 ncp
Burkina Faso 0.38 cp
Cameroon 0.38 cp
Finland 0.71 ncp
Gambia 0.71 cp
Mali 0.71 cp
Saudi Arabia 0.71 cp
Mauritania 0.76 cp
Oman cp
 

Top 10  Countries With Highest Murder Rates
Honduras 154.02 ncp
South Africa 121.91 ncp
Swaziland 93.32 cp
Colombia 69.98 ncp
Lesotho 50.41 cp
Rwanda 45.08 ncp
Jamaica 37.21 cp
El. Salvador 36.88 cp
Venezuela 33.20 ncp
Bolivia 31.98 cp
  
(1) http://www.mapsofworld.com/world-top-ten/countries-with-lowest-murder-rates.html    no date
 
(2) http://www.mapsofworld.com/world-top-ten/countries-with-highest-murder-rates.html    no date


FOOTNOTES

1)  "States With No Death Penalty Share Lower Homicide Rates",  The New
York Times 9/22/00 located at     
www (dot) nytimes.com/2000/09/22/national/22STUD.html  and www (dot) nytimes.com/2000/09/22/national/22DEAT.html
2) “Don't Know Much About Calculus: The (New York) Times flunks high-school
math in death-penalty piece", William Tucker, National Review, 9/22/00, located
at   www (dot) nationalreview.com/comment/comment092200c.shtml
3) ibid, see footnote 11
4) "The Death Penalty Saves Lives", AIM Report, August 2000, located atwww (dot) aim.org/publications/aim_report/2000/08a.html
5) "NEW YORK TIMES UNDER FIRE AGAIN", Accuracy in Media,  10/16/00, go to www (dot) aim.org/

copyright 2000-2008 Dudley Sharp: Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.
 
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail  sharpjfa@aol.com,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
 
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
 
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
 
Pro death penalty sites 

homicidesurvivors.com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx

www.dpinfo.com
www.cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
www.coastda.com/archives.html
www.lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
www.prodeathpenalty.com
yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2 (Sweden)
www.wesleylowe.com/cp.html

dudleysharp said...

Mel:

You completely missed the ovious point, which I spelled out.

You wriye: "You also suggest that the deterrent effect of the death penalty is proved by the fact that no-one plea bargains for the death penalty. A spurious argument firstly; given that the death penalty is the highest sanction from the law's point of view, and so it would be no 'bargain' to push for the death penalty. Further, you ignore the fact that many convicts volunteer their legal rights to appeals and due process and do not fight execution."

No one plea argains to a death sentnece BECAUSE it is the most severe sanction and those on trial for murder don't want it because it is worse.

And, yes, I did discuss, speifically, death row inmates that waive appeals.

to repeat:

What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment.

dudleysharp said...

Cost Comparisons: Death Penalty Cases Vs Equivalent Life Sentence Cases
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below

In comparing the cost of death penalty cases to other sentences, the studies are woefully incomplete.
 
Generally, such studies have one or more of the following problems.
 
1) Most studies exclude the cost of geriatric care, recently found to be $60,000-$80,000/inmate/yr. A significant omission from life sentence costs.
 
2) All studies exclude the cost savings of the death penalty, which is the ONLY sentence which allows for a plea bargain to a maximum life sentence. Such plea bargains accrue as a cost benefit to the death penalty, such benefit being the cost of trials and appeals for every such plea bargain. The cost savings would be for trial and appeals, estimated at $500,000 to $1 million, which would accrue as a cost benefit/credit to the death penalty.
 
Depending upon jurisdiction, this MIGHT result in a minimal cost differential between the two sanctions or an actual net cost benefit to the death penalty, depending upon how many LWOP cases are plea bargained and how many death penalty cases result in a death sentence.
 
3) FCC economist Dr. Paul Zimmerman finds that executions result in a huge cost benefit to society. "Specifically, it is estimated that each state execution deters somewhere between 3 and 25 murders per year (14 being the average). Assuming that the value of human life is approximately $5 million {i.e. the average of the range estimates provided by Viscussi (1993)}, our estimates imply that society avoids losing approximately $70 million per year on average at the current rate of execution all else equal." The study used state level data from 1978 to 1997 for all 50 states (excluding Washington D.C.). (1)
 
That is a cost benefit of $70 million per execution.  15 additional recent studies, inclusive of their defenses,  support the deterrent effect. 
 
No cost study has included such calculations.
 
Although we find it inappropriate to put a dollar value on life, evidently this is not uncommon for economists, insurers, etc.
 
We know that living murderers are infinitely more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers. There is no doubt that executions do save innocent lives. What value do you put on the lives saved? Certainly not less than $5 million.
 
4) a) Some studies compare the cost of a death penalty case, including pre trial, trial, appeals and incarceration, to only the cost of incarceration for 40 years, excluding all trial costs and appeals, for a life sentence. The much cited Texas "study" does this.  Hardly an apples to apples cost comparison.
       b) The pure deception in some cost "studies" is overt. It has been claimed that it costs $3.2 million/execution in Florida. That "study" decided to add the cost of the entire death penalty system in Florida ($57 million), which included all of the death penalty cases and dividing that number by only the number of executions (18). One could just have easily stated that the cost of the estimated 200 death row inmates was $285,000 per case.
 
5) There is no reason for death penalty appeals to take longer than 7 years. All death penalty appeals, direct and writ, should travel through the process concurrently, thereby giving every appellate issue 7 years of consideration through both state and federal courts. There is no need for endless repetition and delay. This would result in a reduction in both adjudication and incarceration costs.
 
Judges may be the most serious roadblock in timely resolution. They can and do hold up cases, inexcusably, for long periods of time.  Texas, which leads the nation in executions, by far, takes over 10 years, on average, to execute murderers. However, the state and federal courts, for that jurisdiction,  handle many cases. Texas has the second lowest rate of the courts overturning death penalty cases. Could every other jurisdiction process appeals in 7-10 years. Of course, if the justices would allow it.
 
Justice
6) The main reason sentences are given is because jurors find that it is the most just punishment available. No state, concerned with justice, will base a decision on cost alone. If they did, all cases would be plea bargained and every crime would have a probation option.
 
1). "State Executions, Deterrence and the Incidence of Murder", Paul R. Zimmerman (zimmy@att.net), March 3. 2003, Social Science Research Network, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/delivery.cfm/SSRN_ID354680_code021216500.pdf?abstractid=354680
 
copyright 2003-2009 Dudley Sharp
Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.
 
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters

Mel said...

Hi Dudley.

Just a quick response to two of yours points:

Cost savings in achieving plea bargains, aka using the threat of the death penalty to force guilty pleas on lesser murder charges. This is not a cost saving, because whilst the prosecutors may feel they save the costs of actually going to trial, it is well known that most of the trial costs have already been borne by the time you get to the door of the court (the point at which most plea bargains are achieved). By this point, both sides will already have prepared their cases. So little real saving is made.

More importantly, only the prosecution costs are factored in. Whereas the defence will already have prepared a death-eligible case that maybe the prosecutor wasn't even intending on pursuing. Given that a lot of these defendants are covered by indigent defence, the costs are still being paid for by the government ultimately.

Just charging aggravated murder therefore has huge cost implications.

2) As for the percentage of defendants who give up their right to appeals being close to zero, this does not meet with my experience and understanding. I understand that you are from Texas, and my experience has been in the Pacific North-West, worlds away geographically and legally. However, the only 2 executions in Oregon under the modern statute have been volunteers. 3 out of 4 under the modern statute in Washington were volunteers. That's 2 states out of 30-odd states with the death penalty, but that represents 100%, and 75% volunteers, respectively. That must affect your '0%' stats?

Re the death penalty and deterrence, I made that point myself that the question of deterrence is more complex than simply comparing murder rates. The differing murder rates between, say England and Wales, and the US generally probably has a lot more to do with gun laws than the existence or non-existence of the death penalty.

dudleysharp said...

Mel, we will have to agree to disagree.

So far, unchallenged, is the fact that

1.only the death penalty allows a plea to a true life sentence.

2. plea bargains save huge amount
of time and money.

3. Life without parole is offerred as an alternative to the death penalty. The only way to achieve LWOP, asent the death penalty, is a trail, which if you get LWOP, or a lesser sentnece, you will have lengthly appeals, appeals which don't exist, with the LWOP plea.

Re: Volunteers

The anti death penalty DPIC lists 131 volunteers out of 8000 sentenced to death. 98.4% don't vilunteer.

But, one of my sources says the number is really much lower. I will ask him for his assesment.

I give a detailed rebuttal on the use of murder and execution rates to measure deterrence. So we agree. I also listed a nmuber of murder rates and countires with and without the death penalty as examples/

For me, all prospects of a negative outcome deter some. It is a truism that slo includes the most severe criminal sanction.

I have a long review of deterrence, if you want it.

For some of the recent 16 deterrence studies, go to:

http://www.cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPDeterrence.htm

US Senate testimonyhttp://judiciary.senate.gov/testimony.cfm?id=1745&wit_id=4991

"I oppose the death penalty. " " But my results show that the death penalty (deters) — what am I going to do, hide them?" "Science does really draw a conclusion. It did. There is no question about it." "The results are robust, they don't really go away" "The conclusion is there is a deterrent effect.".

Prof. Naci Mocan, Economics Chairman, University of Colorado at Denver
"Studies say death penalty deters crime", ROBERT TANNER, Associated Press, Jun 10, 2007, 2:01 PM ET

Mel said...

I haven't responded to your other comments through lack of time- not evidence or opinion!

I will post more fully on this later in the week, hopefully.

In terms of the ethics of state execution, that's a matter of principle and morals. You can agree to disagree. Facts and stats is a different matter!

Android said...

You seem to have quite a discussion here! More controvercial blog posts I say!

Here's my 5p:

I once read about the methods of execution in the US, and I couldn't sleep for days. It's unbelievable that stuff like this still happends in America!!

There's no place for death penalty in today's society!

One of my friends from the BVC is heavily involved with a charity which provides free legal advice to the death row prisoners in America. He's actually gone to the US few weeks ago and I can't wait to ask him about it on his return...

dudleysharp said...

Android,

Virtually all executions in the US are now by lethal Injection.

You couldn't slleep for days, eh?

Lethal Injection: Current Controversies Resolved
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info, below
 
Several issues have come up with regard to lethal injection.
 
Generally, they are:
1) The murderer experiencing pain during execution;
2) The ethics of medical professionals participating in executions; and
3) Proper training of execution personnel.
 
1) PAIN AND LETHAL INJECTION
 
The evidence, including the immediate autopsy of executed serial murderer/rapist Michael Ross, supports that there is no pain within the lethal injection process.

There is a concern that some inmates may be conscious, but paralyzed, during execution, because one of the three drugs used may have worn off, prior to death.
 
There is rare evidence this may have occurred. There is a lot of speculation.
 
If properly administered, it cannot occur with the properties and amounts of the chemicals used and within the time frame of an execution.

An Associated Press reporter correctly stated that  "there is little to support those claims except a few anecdotes of inmates gasping and convulsing and an article in the British medical journal Lancet." (AP, "Death penalty foes attack lethal-injection drug", 7/5/05)
 
The British Medical Journal, The Lancet, published an article critical of lethal injection (Volume 365, 4/16/05). A follow up article, by essential the same group of researchers, published a similar report in PLoS Medicine on 4/24/07.

The articles did not/could not identify one case where evidence existed than an inmate was conscious during execution.  

The Lancet article identified 21 cases of execution where the level of "post mortem" (after death) sodium thiopental was below that used in surgery and, therefore,  may suggest consciousness was possible. 

A more accurate description would be all but impossible.
 
A "long after execution" post mortem measurement of sodium thiopental is very different from a moment of death measurement.

Dr. Lydia Conlay, chair of the department of anesthesiology, Baylor College of Medicine (Texas Medical Center, Houston) said the extrapolation of postmortem sodium thiopental levels in the blood to those at the time of execution is by no means a proven method. "I just don't think we can draw any conclusions from (the Lancet study) , one way or the other."
 
Actually, we can. The science is well known.  Sodium thiopental is absorbed rapidly into the body. Long after execution blood testing of those levels means absolutely nothing with regard to the levels at the time of execution.  Nothing.
 
The Lancet article did not dispute the obvious --  for executions,  the sodium thiopental is administered in dosages roughly 10-20  times the amount necessary for sedation unconsciousness during surgical procedures.

Unconsciousness occurs within the first 30 seconds of the injection/execution process. The injection of the three drugs takes from 4-5 minutes. Death usually occurs within 6-7 minutes and is pronounced within 8-10 minutes.

The researchers also failed to note the much lower probability (impossibility?) that the murderer could be conscious, while all three drugs are coursing through the veins, concurrently.
 
Despite the Lancet article's presumptions and omissions, there is no scientific evidence that consciousness with pain has occurred with the amounts and methods of injecting those three chemicals within the execution period.
 
The AP article also stated that "They (death penalty opponents)  also attack lethal injection by saying that the steps to complete it haven't been reviewed by medical professionals."
 
That is both deceptive and irrelevant.
 
The unchallenged reality is that medical professionals have both reviewed and implemented injection procedures for decades. The same procedures are used in executions. Criminal justice professionals have been trained in this application.

Does anyone not know this?

The chemicals used in lethal injection, as well as their individual and collective results, at the dosages used, are also well known by medical and pharmacology professionals.
 
Dr. A. Jay Chapman, the former Oklahoma Medical Examiner, who created the protocol, consulted a toxicologist and two anesthesiologists. He states the obvious " ' . . .it didn't actually require much research because the three chemicals - a painkiller, a muscle-paralyzing agent and a heart-stopper - are well-known to physicians.' 'It is anesthetizing someone for a surgical procedure, but simply carried to an extreme.' 'If it is competently administered, there will be no question about this business of pain and suffering.' "("Lethal Injection Father Defends Creation", Paul Ellias, Associated Press, 5/10/07)

Further, lethal injection is not a medical procedure, but the culmination of a judicial sentence carried out by criminal justice professionals, the result of which is intended as death, the outcome of every case. 
 
The follow up research/article is "Lethal Injection for Execution: Chemical Asphyxiation?"(Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine, 4/24/07). Dr. Koniaris was an author in both this and the Lancet article.

The question mark from the title says it all.
 
From the Conclusion:
 
" . . . our findings suggest that current lethal injection protocols "MAY" not reliably effect death through the mechanisms intended, indicating a failure of design and implementation. "IF" thiopental and potassium chloride fail to cause anesthesia and cardiac arrest, potentially aware inmates "COULD" die through pancuronium-induced asphyxiation." (Underline, quote , caps and color change are mine, for emphasis)
 
In other words, the authors tell us they cannot prove this has ever happened. They are speculating.

In Belgium and the Netherlands, Pancuronium (the paralytic) is recommended in the protocol for euthanasia. After administering sodium thiopental to induce coma, Pancuronium is delivered in order to stop breathing.(1)

Exactly the first two drugs in lehtl injection.

Skip the speculation: Some Reality

From Hartford Courant, "Ross Autopsy Stirs Execution Debate----Results Cited To Counter Talk Of Pre-Death Pain", August 11, 2005

The below is a paraphrase of parts of that article, including some exact quotes.

Results of the autopsy done on serial killer Michael Ross are being cited by several prominent doctors to refute a highly publicized article that appeared in The Lancet, the British medical journal, in April, 2005.

Critics of the Lancet article say it does not account for postmortem redistribution of the anesthetic - thiopental. The redistribution, the critics say, accounts for the lower levels of thiopental on which Dr. Koniaris based his Lancet article conclusions that the levels of anesthetic were inadequate. The Ross autopsy results document this redistribution, bolstering the critics' assertions.

Dr. H. Wayne Carver II, Connecticut's chief medical examiner, was aware of the controversial Lancet article before performing the Ross autopsy. As a result, he took the additional step of drawing a sample of Ross's blood 20 minutes after he was pronounced dead at 2:25 a.m. May 13. Carver took a subsequent sample during the autopsy, which began about 7 hours later, at 9:40 a.m.

The 1st sample showed a concentration of 29.6 milligrams per liter of thiopental; the second sample showed a concentration of 9.4 milligrams per liter. The 1st sample was drawn from Ross' right femoral artery, and the second from his heart, which can account for some of the discrepancy. But Dr. Mark Heath, a New York anesthesiologist and one of the numerous doctors who have signed letters to The Lancet challenging the Koniaris article, said it clearly substantiates the postmortem redistribution of the thiopental.

Dr. Jonathan Groner, a pediatric surgeon from Ohio said he interviewed a number of forensic toxicologists before adopting the view that thiopental in a corpse leaves the blood and is absorbed by the fat, causing blood samples taken hours after death to be an unreliable marker of the levels of thiopental in the body at the time of death.

Groner described the Ross autopsy results as "a powerful refutation" of the Lancet-Koniaris study.

Dr. Ashraf Mozayani, a forensic toxicologist with the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office in Texas, said the level of thiopental "drops quite a bit" after death. Even in the living, Mozayani said, thiopental levels decline rapidly after administration of the drug. She cited one study in which a patient was administered 400 milligrams of thiopental intravenously. After two minutes the concentration in the blood was measured at 28 milligrams, but dropped to 3 milligrams concentration 19 minutes after the anesthetic was injected.

Mozayani said the declining concentration of thiopental cited in the Ross autopsy report "make sense."

On The Lancet article, she said, "I don't think they have the whole story - the postmortem redistribution and all the other things they have to consider for postmortem testing." 

NOTE: I think they had and knew the whole story. They just didn't include it in their report(s).
 
The Veterinary sidetrack
 
Opponents of the death penalty, as well as other uninformed or deceptive sources, have been stating that even vets do not use the paralytic agent in the euthanasia of animals. This is a perversion of the veterinary position, which actually provides support, however unintended, for the human execution process.
Some fact checking is in order  -- www(dot)avma.org/issues/animal_welfare/euthanasia.pdf
 
 NOTE: That said, it might easier to have only a one drug - an anesthetic - execution and I am not sure why it isn't being done, with the possible exceptions that I have read that it may result in 1) much longer execution time and 2) a deep coma, not death (1)

In April, 2008, The US Supreme Court found lethal injection constitutional and not a violation of the 6th Amendment. The final vote was 7-2 in Baze v. Rees (07-5439).


2.  THE MEDICAL/ETHICAL DILEMMA

Medical groups cite that there is an ethical conflict for participation in the lethal injection process, because medical professionals have a requirement to "do no harm".
 
Those ethical codes pertain to the medical profession, only, and to  patients, only. Judicial execution is not part of the medical profession  and death row inmates are not patients.
 
Doctors and nurses can be police and soldiers and can kill, when deemed appropriate,  within those lines of duty and without violating the ethical codes of their medical profession. Similarly, medical professionals do not violate their codes of ethics, when acting as technical experts, for executions, in a criminal justice procedure.
 
Physicians are often part of double or triple blind studies where there is hope that the tested drugs may, someday, prove beneficial. The physicians and other researchers know that many patients, taking placebos or less effective drugs, will suffer more additional harm or death because they are not taking the subject drug or that the subject drug will actually harm or kill more patients than the placebo of other drugs used in the study.
 
Physicians  knowingly harm individual patients, in direct contradiction to their "do no harm" oath.
 
For the greater good, those physicians sacrifice innocent, willing and brave patients. Of course, there have been medical experiments without consent and, even, today, they continue ("Critical Care Without Consent", Washington Post, May 27, 2007; Page A01).
 
The greater good is irrelevant, from an ethical standpoint, if "Do no harm" means "do no harm".  Physicians knowingly make exceptions to their "do no harm" requirement, every day, within their profession, where that code actually does apply. And, they should. There are obvious moral and ethical nuances and we should consider and pay attention to them, as is done within the medical profession.
 
The "do no harm" has no ethical effect in a non medical context, because this ethical requirement is for medical treatments, only, and for patients, only.

The classic Hippocratic oath, primarily prohibits abortion and euthanasia, two practices commonly accepted by many physicians.  Do you see medical groups  doing everything they can to stop those two practices? Of course not. Medical groups simply pick and chose what they like, based upon their own personal preferences, not some iron clad ethical code - a code and oath which they simply discard whenever it is convenient. Is it now the Hypocrisy Oath?

There is no ethical connection between medicine and lethal injection. Therefore, there is no ethical prohibition for medical professionals to participate in executions.
 
To put it clearly: The execution of death row inmates is not equivalent or connected to the treatment of patients. 
 
Is this a mystery?

The acknowledged anti death penalty editors of The Public Library of Science (PLoS) Medicine agree. They write:

"Execution by lethal injection, even if it uses tools of intensive care such as intravenous tubing and beeping heart monitors, has the same relationship to medicine that an executioner's axe has to surgery."  ("Lethal Injection Is Not Humane", PLoS, 4/24/07).

The PLoS Medicine editors have made the same point many of us have been making - similar acts and similar equipment do not establish any equivalence or connection.

Obviously, execution is not a medical treatment, but a criminal justice sanction. The basis for medical treatment is to improve the plight of the patient, for which the medical profession provides obvious and daily exceptions. The basis for execution is to carry out a criminal justice sentence where death is the sanction. 

Justice, deterrence, retribution, just punishments, upholding the social contract, saving innocent life, etc.,  are all recognized as aspects of the death penalty, all dealing with the greater good.
 
Are murderers on death row willing participants? Of course. They willingly committed the crime and, therefore, willingly exposed themselves to the social contract of that jurisdiction.

Lethal injection is not a medical procedure. It is a criminal justice sanction authorized by law. Therefore, there is no ethical conflict with medical codes of conduct and medical personal participating in executions.
 
Any participation in executions by medical professionals should be a matter for their own personal conscience. In fact, 20-40% of doctors surveyed would participate in the execution process.
 
A side note:

40,000 to 100,000 innocents die, every year, in the US because of medical misadventure or improper medical treatment. (2)
 
Do no harm? The doctor doth protest too much, methinks.
 
There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US since 1900.
 

3. PROPER TRAINING
 
In every state, there are hundreds or thousands of people trained for IV application of drugs or the taking of blood.  Even many hard core drug addicts are proficient in IV application.
 
There are very few errors in lethal injections which can be attributed to personnel error. The simple fact is that, if necessary,  non medical personnel can be properly trained to mix and administer the chemicals used in lethal injection.  But, it isn't necessary.
 
It appears that some 500-1000 innocent patients die, every year, in the US, due to some type of medical misadventure, with anesthesia. (2)

I am unaware of evidence that shows criminal justice professionals are more likely to commit critical errors in the lethal injection process than are medical professionals in IV application.
 
Furthermore, even with errors in lethal injection, those cases resulted in the death of the inmate - the intended outcome for the guilty murderer.
 
In the errors of medical professionals, we are speaking of a large number of deaths and injuries to innocent patients - the opposite of the intended outcome.

1)  The following is a Dutch protocol for parenteral (intravenous) administration to obtain euthanasia:
Intravenous administration is the most reliable and rapid way to accomplish euthanasia and therefore can be safely recommended. A coma is first induced by intravenous administration of 20 mg/kg sodium thiopental (Nesdonal) in a small volume (10 ml physiological saline). Then a triple intravenous dose of a non-depolarizing neuromuscular muscle relaxant is given, such as 20 mg pancuronium bromide (Pavulon) or 20 mg vecuronium bromide (Norcuron). The muscle relaxant should preferably be given intravenously, in order to ensure optimal availability. Only for pancuronium bromide (Pavulon) are there substantial indications that the agent may also be given intramuscularly in a dosage of 40 mg.

wweek.com/___ALL_OLD_HTML/euthanasics.html
 
 
2) "Deaths from Medical Misadventure"at
                   www(dot)wrongdiagnosis.com/m/medical_misadventure/deaths.htm
                   and
                  "Health Grades Quality Study: Patient Safety in American Hospitals, July 2004" 
                  www.(dot)healthgrades.com/media/english/pdf/HG_Patient_Safety_Study_Final.pdf

originally written May, 2005. Updated as merited.
 
copyright 2005-2009 Dudley Sharp - Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.
 
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail  sharpjfa@aol.com,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
 
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
 
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
 

Android said...

Dudley, I'm not even going to read you post in much detail, because I need to get some sleep this weekend.

I am aware that they only use lethal injections now, which is what I was reading about. The procedure is revolting. Everything is a show in the US, even the executions...

You say there's no proof if innocent beign executed - well, they can't exactly appeal their sentence once they're dead, can they?!

P.s. You could have just supplied links to the original text - there's no need to copy the internet, you know.

Mel said...

I still maintain that there is evidence of innocent people being executed.

But as I said before, don't really have the time to address this at the moment - opinion writing assessment deadline on Monday!

dudleysharp said...

Android writes: "You say there's no proof if innocent beign executed - well, they can't exactly appeal their sentence once they're dead, can they?!"

No, but many other people can. You have likley heard of a wrongful death suit. In additon, there have been decades long investigations of case of alleged innocts executed in the US. Most, like the famous Rosenberg and Coleman cases, have ackfired, badly.

Innocents are much more likely to be harmed, absent the death penalty.

vegasquixote said...

Questions Mr. Dudley Sharp cannot answer about the Death Penalty:

1. Does the US execute the people who create the most social damage?

2. Can you explain the limitations of the econometric research you profess to know about?

3. Can you tell us about the research, including Shepherd (2005), that suggest a possible brutalizing effect on the Death penalty?

4. How do you explain that Death Penalty states have more killings of law enforcement officers?

5. Is the justice system fair to the poor in comparison to the rich?

6. Is the US justice system arbitrary?

7. Why do you think criminologists and law enforcement officials do not think the Death Penalty has much if any deterrent effect?

8. How much do people support the Death Penalty in comparison to Life Without sentences?

9. Has anybody White person ever been executed for killing a Black person in Texas?

10. Why did the ABA ask for a suspension of the Death Penalty?

11. What is the American Medical Association’s stand on the Death Penalty?

12. Why do you think you know more than the Pope when it comes to religious dogma and the Death Penalty?

13. Why did you fail to mention that in the studies you profess, that NRA membership was also correlated with increased murder rates?

dudleysharp said...

To: Dahn Shaulis, aka Vegas Quixote or vegasquixote or theamericaninjusticesystem

Thank you for this additional opportunity to enhance pro death penalty positions.

You write: Questions Mr. Dudley Sharp cannot answer about the Death Penalty:

REPLY: I am sorry you make things up and continue to be so negative. I am happy to address the questions.You could have, easily, researched the answers for yourself. The questions indicate that you have, as in the past, refused to.

1. Does the US execute the people who create the most social damage?

REPLY: Yes, as murder is the worst crime. This is, subjective, in the sense that I consider murder the worst crime, thusly creating the most social damage.Others may have different standards, regarding such damage. Many more deserve the death penalty. But just because many, who deserve the death penalty, don't get it, is not a reason to not give it in those cases where murderers do deserve it. Less justice is not what we want.


2. Can you explain the limitations of the econometric research you profess to know about?

REPLY: There is a large variable rate within the 16 studies which have recently found for the deterrent effect of the death penalty, with results varying from 4-28 lives spared per execution. The variables are explained by a variety of reasons, including the fact that social sciences can not be as precise as hard science.

Such as: "Using differing methodologies and data sets at least five groups of scholars each working independently (and often without knowledge of the others) have arrived at the same conclusion—there is significant and robust evidence that executions deter some homicides. While there may be merit in some specific criticisms, none addresses the totality of the collection of studies. The probability that chance alone explains the coincidence of these virtually simultaneous conclusions is negligible."
"Reflections on a Critique", Dale O Cloninger and Roberto Marchesini, forthcoming Applied Economic Letters

3. Can you tell us about the research, including Shepherd (2005), that suggest a possible brutalizing effect on the Death penalty?

REPLY: The brutalization effect results have been overwhelmed by the studies finding for deterrence. Not surprising. Some antis blindly deny deterrence, for two reasons. First, deterrence tells us that the anti death penalty position results in more innocents murdered. Secondly, antis say potential murderers don't think about consequence, yet, many of those same antis rely on the brutalization effect, which is a complex philosophical effect that says that murders will increase because of the moral example of the state, that is, because the state justly executes murderers, some criminals will be more likely to unjustly murder innocents, because of the just example of the state. It is ridiculous on its face - like saying kidnappings will increase because we incarcerate more criminals or criminals will become philanthropists because the state provides welfare. IT is a clear and fascinating hypocrisy that antis find it more plausible that murderers are much more likely to respond to the deep philosophical implications of the brutalization effect than they are to respond to the very clear, direct deterrent effect - you murder, we execute you. Even Shepherds results find that, if we execute more than 1 murderer ever 27 months, the brutalization effect goes away. In other words, more and quicker executions deter.


4. How do you explain that Death Penalty states have more killings of law enforcement officers?

REPLY: First, it is not a rule, across the board, that more officers are murdered in death penalty jurisdictions than in non death penalty jurisdictions. Secondly, in many cases, the death penalty is in use in those jurisdictions which have the most crime. Thirdly, in the last study I reviewed, police murders dropped as executions increased.

See Figure 14 page 20

http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/ph98.pdf

Antis make a common error on deterrence, whereby they only look at murder rates and homicide rates. What deterrence says is that there will be less net murders with the death penalty than without it.

5. Is the justice system fair to the poor in comparison to the rich?

REPLY:. With specific regard to the death penalty, no one disputes that wealthier defendants can hire better lawyers and, therefore, should have a legal advantage over their poorer counterparts. The US has executed about 0.15% of all murderers since new death penalty statutes were enacted in 1973. Is there evidence that wealthier capital murderers are less likely to be executed than their poorer ilk, based upon the proportion of capital murders committed by different those different economic groups? Not to my knowledge. With regard to overall fairness, I think many more guilty criminals should suffer sanction, than currently do. The greatest unfairness is how innocent victims do not find justice.


6. Why do you think criminologists and law enforcement officials do not think the Death Penalty has much if any deterrent effect?

REPLY: Probably because 4-28 innocents saved per execution, although a huge positive effect, does not have a noticeable effect on the murder rate. For example, at 30 executions per year, that is 120-840 innocents saved per year. Sadly, that has a small effect on the annual US murder rate, but it is a huge number if you care about innocent lives.

7. How much do people support the Death Penalty in comparison to Life Without sentences?

REPLY: About 80% of US citizens support the death penalty for specific crimes. About 95% of US citizens support both the death penalty and life without parole, therefore the death penalty and other options are widely supported. I think Dahn is looking for a confirmation of inaccurate interpretations, as per his question. Instead of confirming inaccuracies, as Dahn does, it is better to set the record straight.

read paragraph Distortion: Death Penalty vs Life Without Parole Polls at

dudleysharp // January 22, 2009 9:21 AM
Death Penalty Polls - Support Remains Very High
http://smarttalk.witf.org/2009/01/thursdays-radio-smart-talk_21.html


8. How many White people have been executed for killing a Black person in Texas?

REPLY: Last time I reviewed, it was one. What is it, now?

9. Why did the ABA ask for a suspension of the Death Penalty?

REPLY: Because they are opposed to the death penalty and used inaccurate and incomplete reviews to find for a predetermined result.

SEE "ABA's Proposed Moratorium Relies on Flimsy Facts", by Dudley Sharp, The Texas Lawyer, March 16, 1997. An article showing how inaccurate and misleading the American Bar Association was in their foundation in asking for a moratorium on
executions.

10. What is the American Medical Association’s stand on the Death Penalty?

REPLY: They are wrongly opposed to it.

SEE several responses at

http://unchealthcare.wordpress.com/2008/12/08/clap-hands-here-comes-charlie/

11. Why do you think you know more than the Pope when it comes to religious dogma and the Death Penalty?

REPLY: I don't. However, it is clear that the Pope John Paul II made some significant errors in reason, as well as major omissions with theology and tradition, within his assessment of the death penalty. Had you researched it, you would know that as well. See the two references, just below.

Recently deceased "(Avery Cardinal) Dulles hazarded the guess that this "internal solidification," as it plays out over the next half-century or so, might carry the church back to different positions on some matters than those taken by the popes who unleashed it. Specifically, Dulles said, his hunch was that the church may ultimately return to a "more traditional posture" on both the death penalty and the idea of a "just war."
"An unpublished interview with Avery Dulles", All Things Catholic by John L. Allen, Jr., NCRcafe.org, Posted on Dec 19, 2008, at http://ncrcafe.org/node/2340

Dahn, read in their entirety:

Christian Scholars: Support for the Death Penalty
dudleysharp // January 22, 2009 8:54 AM
http://smarttalk.witf.org/2009/01/thursdays-radio-smart-talk_21.html

and

Pope John Paul II: Prudential Judgement & the Death Penalty:
At 1/21/2009 4:28 PM, dudleysharp
http://proecclesia.blogspot.com/2009/01/seeking-justice-capital-punishment.html


12. Why did you fail to mention that in the studies you profess, that NRA membership was also correlated with increased murder rates?

REPLY: First, I didn't know that. Secondly, had I, I would have considered that correlation doesn't mean connection, so I still wouldn't have mentioned it. It is, however, possible, that in jurisdictions with the most murders, that many law abiding citizens are more likely to arm themselves for self protection and that such folks are more likely to be NRA members. Pure speculation. Maybe you can research it.

Anonymous said...

God, these fanatics really believe in killing people don't they?

If such harsh punishment was any deterrent, why is over 1% of the entire US population behind bars, especially (I believe) a disproportionately high number of black males? I know the UK prison poulation is about 80,000, also over 1% of the entire population, but that's an indication of the ineffectiveness of capital punishment as a deterrent, at least to individuals, and particularly with the effects of the present UK government's attempts to criminalise ever pettier offences and punish them with prison.

My wife watches a lot of "Forensic detectives" type programs. Of course, they are unrepresentative in that they show only the successful cases and largely ignore gross miscarriages of justice, but it's amazing how many convicts are released on the basis if evidence which was available from the start.

If we go by the rather hackneyed motto "better twenty guilty go free than one innocent loses his freedom", how much more important is it that we don't kill to satisfy some visceral lust for revenge. Yes, I'm also challenged when thinking about unbearably despicable acts against children, for example, but if capital punishment doesn't work as a deterrent, and there is doubt about the "system" which supports it, better to dispose of it and try something more effective.

"Recent Studies" hold no sway for me - they are merely marketing exercises for supporting a particular view rather than objective analyses of a situation. How many "Recent Studies" told you that smoking does not cause cancer when every lung doctor in the world could see that it most certainly did?

No, I'm not a bleeding heart liberal, quite the opposite in some respects, but there are some things where you just have to stick your heels in and state that it's useless, ineffective, inhumane and should simply stop. Sure, lock them up as securely as possible, but don't extinguish them. Or if you do, don't pretend that you are part of a civil society, admit you're simply vengeful, and don't do God on me while you're trying to justify your vengefulness.

First post - sorry, I greatly enjoy reading this blog and others like it, but the hanging and flogging brigade really get my goat.

Mel said...

Hi Anonymous and Vegas Quixote, thanks for your posts.

I think this is the most comments I've had to a blog post, although the majority of them were from Dudley Sharp (while I appreciate dialogue in all its forms, I don't think you've been making the best use of the forum, and that's not just because I disagree with you).

We haven't had the death penalty for decades in this country. It is contrary to many of the conventions that we're signed up to, not least the European Convention! We often share so much with out American cousins, but in this respect I think our countries are truly divided. I wonder whether this says anything about the nature of our two nations, or rather the natural tendency of a system to promote thinking that justifies the status quo (no capital punishment/capital punishment, respectively).

Nevertheless, this is an issue which I hold very strong opinions on. As I said before I don't think it's a matter of agreeing to disagree- it's too important for that, and that also betrays the fact that there are ascertainable answers to some of these issues. To agree to disagree would be to fudge the issue.

I keep saying I will post- and I will, just have to get some work out of the way - I think a multi-part blog entry is called for on this subject.

In the mean time, thanks for all your comments and please don't hesitate to make more comments! Everyone has something to add to this particular debate; it's a question of morality, logics and evidence-based practice. No matter what your background, everyone can comment on the first two! I shall do some more research, and will post soon...

dudleysharp said...

Anonymous:

Two of my previous posts, above, addressed and countered the issues you brought up.


The Death Penalty Provides More Protection for Innocents

and

Death Penalty and Deterrence: Let's be clear

I would be happy to return your goat, however, someone else got it from me.

Anonymous said...

I think I'm entitled to comment as I have both science and law degrees and considerable life and professional experience in both disciplines (sometimes simultaneously). I'm also not in the UK, so my perspective comes from experience in several, often quite different, European countries, as well as the EU and ECHR regimes.

I'm afraid, Dudley Sharp, with all due respect, that vengeful killing has no place in any civilised society. It is no more and no less than state-endorsed murder and has no effect other than the brutalisation of the populace. If capital punishment did indeed provide protection for innocents, then there would be many fewer occurrances of the sort of crimes that incur the penalty. There are no fewer occurrances. not quite QED, but if there is a presumption in favour of life there is vanishingly little evidence to upset the balance of the presumption. In "Europe", wherever that is, we, having witnessed centuries of blood-feuds, wars, pogroms, exterminations etc have come to realise that there is cycle of violence which has to be broken. We appear, in an imperfect way, to have succeeded to a great extent.

The law is as much about creating a civilised society as in imposing order. Nothing is perfect, humans can be savage and have to be dealt with. But we in the old world have learned that taking "an eye for an eye, ... a life for a life" is a downward spiral. I hope y'all will learn that one day.

Now, back to work ...

dudleysharp said...

To Anonymouso

nly thre host of a blog is entitled to comment. The rest of us post at the discretion of the owner.

Anon writes: vengeful killing has no place in any civilised society. It is no more and no less than state-endorsed murder and has no effect other than the brutalisation of the populace.

Reply: Even with all your schooling and life experience, you make a common error. You state a claim with no evidence to support it.

As shown above, the majorities of the polulations of "civilized" societies in Western Europe support the death penalty. In fact, based upon the crime committed, it is likely that there MIGHT be majority support of the death penalty in all countries, say for those who rape, torture and murder children.

You presume that we don't have net fewers because of the death penalty. I say we do. Wether high murder rates of low, wether risng, lowering or staying the same, we will have fewer net murders with the death penalty.

Another example, are some deterred by laws against speeding in cars, even in that country which has the highest percentage of those who violate the speeding laws? Of course.

I think you could argue it is uncivilized to spare murderers lives at a cost of more innocents murdered.

By, the definition of "civilized" is very subjective.

Both the secular and the religious have solid moral support for the death penalty.

The foundation for death penalty support is the same as it is for all sanctions, that it is a just and appropriate sanction for some crimes.

The moral difference between those who oppose or support capital punishment is that one finds it morally wrong, the other morally correct, respectively.

In addition, many of us find that the death penalty is a greater protector of innocent lives.

There are some excellent moral/ethical writings supportive of the death penalty. Here are a few. I hope you have the chance to read them.

(1) John Stuart Mill, speech on the death penalty
http://www.mnstate.edu/gracyk/courses/web%20publishing/Mill_supports_death_penalty.htm

(2)”The Death Penalty”, by Romano Amerio, a faithful Catholic Vatican insider, scholar, professor at the Academy of Lugano, consultant to the Preparatory Commission of Vatican II, and a peritus (expert theologian) at the Council.
http://www.domid.blogspot.com/2007/05/amerio-on-capital-punishment.html

titled “Amerio on capital punishment “, Chapter XXVI, 187. The death penalty, from the book Iota Unum, May 25, 2007

(3) Immanuel Kant, “The Right of Punishing”, inclusive of the death penalty
http://web.telia.com/~u15509119/ny_sida_9.htm

(4) “Capital Punishment: A Catholic Perspective”,
by Br. Augustine (Emmanuel Valenza)
http://www.sspx.org/against_the_sound_bites/capital_punishment.htm

(5) “Defending Capital Punishment” by William Gairdner
http://www.williamgairdner.com/defending-capital-punishment/

(6) “Capital Punishment: The Case for Justice”, Prof. J. Budziszewski, First Things, August / September 2004 found http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles4/BudziszewskiPunishment.shtml

(7) Just Violence: An Aristotelian Justification of Capital Punishment
http://www.csuchico.edu/pst/JustViolence.htm

(8) “Catholic and other Christian References: Support for the Death Penalty”, at
http://www.homicidesurvivors.com/2006/10/12/catholic-and-other-christian-references-support-for-the-death-penalty.aspx

Anonymous said...

I hope this doesn't get posted twice. Someone must have stood on a cable when I posted.

I think it's time to stop littering the hostess' blog with this. "Christian (in fact any religious) support for capital punishment" is a contradictio in terminis which I simply cannot entertain. So I won't.

Dear "girl walks into a bar" - sorry if that sounds patronising but it's such a good name for a blog - I hope that you complete your training and are successful in the profession. While I like making fun of lawyers with my scientist's hat on, with my lawyer's hat on (I'm not strictly a lawyer, but I work for a large inter-governmental legal organisation and make judicial decisions covering an area somewhat larger than the EU - and am qualified to do so) I have a deep appreciation of the law, the rule of law and in building a civil and civilised society.

There we are - a capitalist, supra-governmental technocrat and bleeding-heart liberal all in one ;-)

Please keep blogging - it is entertaining and enlightening.