Is it time for Oregon to repeal the death penalty?

Karol Collymore

A week ago today, Governor Bill Richardson signed a bill that repealed New Mexico's death penalty.  From CNN.com:

"Regardless of my personal opinion about the death penalty, I do not have confidence in the criminal justice system as it currently operates to be the final arbiter when it comes to who lives and who dies for their crime," Richardson said in a statement Wednesday.

He noted that more than 130 death row inmates have been exonerated in the past 10 years, including four in New Mexico.

"Faced with the reality that our system for imposing the death penalty can never be perfect, my conscience compels me to replace the death penalty with a solution that keeps society safe," he said.

The death penalty throughout history has been doled out for crimes from murder, treason, stealing horses, being a witch, marrying a Jew or being a bad slave.  Executions were performed by crucifixion, drowning, stoning, burning alive, firing squad, hanging, and the more "modern" electric chair and lethal injection.  The death penalty has been unevenly handed out throughout modern history to minorities, poor people and others who cannot afford an OJ Simpson defense. 

According to the Department of Corrections, there are over 30 people on Oregon's death row.  The youngest person is 30, the oldest is 44.  This is Oregon's fourth incarnation of the death penalty; it having been voted out twice and thrown out by the Oregon Supreme Court once.  Our state uses lethal injection.  This process has three steps: putting the inmate to sleep, stopping the heart, then finally, the breathing.  Washington state still hangs people, Utah offers a firing squad option and nine others use electrocution.

New Mexico is the 15th state to make the move against capital punishment.  Is it time for Oregon to be 16th?

Comments

  • Douglas K. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    It would make economic sense to do it, given the high cost of carrying out a death sentence -- which almost never happens anyway, at least in this state.

    But this is one of those emotionally-driven issues that will be determined on election day by whichever news story is foremost in voter's minds. If the latest news is about a guy who kidnapped, raped and murdered six children, they'll vote to keep it. If the big current news is about a flood of people freed from death row after being exonerated, they might be more willing to get rid of it.

    Personally, I want the death penalty either (1) eliminated, or (2) subject to a heightened standard of proof that makes erroneous convictions impossible. I'm skeptical that option (2) can ever be achieved, given the tendency of humans to screw up even the most idiot-proof systems, so I'll go with option (1).

  • Joe Hill (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Yes. It is long past time to eliminate the death penalty.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    It's long overdue. There was a "Life for a life" measure that fell short of making it to the ballot a few years back. It essentially mandated life imprisonment without parole for aggravated murder, and abolished the death penalty. As a life-long Oregonian I have seen the death penalty voted down in years past. When murderers started getting paroled after relatively short prison terms then the outrage pushed through the death penalty. The "Life for a life" measure had broad based support but was ill organized. The Catholic Church gave it lip service support. Another attempt might succeed.

  • Joe Hill (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I'm sorry, that comment was sophomoric. Of course, yes, the death penalty is wrong, and perhaps many people on here already agree, but that is probably not the question. A better formulation of the question might be: will the Democratic Party suffer a massive backlash from a right wing that is now in disarray - so massive that it would cause serious harm to all kinds of other programs (e.g. education, health care, etc.)?

    Gods, that is a truly difficult moral question. Do we do the greatest good for the greatest number by not waking the atavistic thirst for vengeance that acts as a kind of social bonding mechanism in an inchoate, anomie-dominated life-situation for most of the population?

    Is that risk worth more than the few lives, almost all of whom would not be admirable, that would be saved if the death penalty were abolished in Oregon?

    And what other positive effects would there be from abolishing the death penalty?

    Hard questions.

  • Vincent (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I used to be a supporter of the death penalty, but as I've drifted more toward libertarian views in the last few years, my position has altered to the point where I no longer see it as appropriate for the state to be in the business of killing citizens.

    Richardson's right when he says it's hard to trust the criminal justice system to be the final arbiter in these matters, especially since, as Karol notes, this country has a nasty history of throwing minority "suspects" in jail, only to find out thirty years down the road, thanks to DNA testing, that they were innocent all along.

    So yeah, I wouldn't be sad to see the death penalty go. Getting rid of it and ending the "War on Drugs", which has only served to distort law enforcement and utterly prevented even gram of cocaine or a single ounce of marijuana from getting to the people who want it, would do a lot to restore some sanity to this country's criminal justice system.

  • mp97303 (unverified)
    (Show?)

    NO

  • Col. Kurtz (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Yes. It is never equitably applied. It does deter sociopaths, but like terrorists, the question is if we will adopt their lifestyle.

    No doubt, the Lars Legion will trumpet, "Exterminate the brutes"!

  • Judge Judy Garland (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Vincent is correct. The WOD has distorted all debate and sense of justice and has made cultural bias a social policy. Well said, IMHO. We cannot think the system is just, or expect justice, if any part is not just.

  • Bologna on Wonderbread (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Two words: Ward Weaver.

  • Linley (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I am being only slightly flippant when I say I am in favor of the death penalty; as long as the method of execution is death by natural causes (i.e., old age, disease, etc.).

    This is not quite so silly as it seems. If the person were sentenced to death, they would have a special status, perhaps setting them apart from other prisoners. But, being sentenced to death, there is absolutely no question that they would be held in prison for life; no opportunity for parole.

  • (Show?)

    NO -- in cases of direct evidence! Punishment and deterrence are more than persuasive philosophical bases for execution in such cases. Circumstantial evidence is another story. As far as I'm concerned, life in prison is far worse than execution.

  • (Show?)

    "Ward Weaver"

    I haven't heard of him killing any more girls lately. The whole imprisonment thing seems to be working out on that one.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Anyone in favor of the death penalty should read "The Top Ten Death Penalty Myths" by R. Gerber (2007), a systematic demolition of all the so-called reasons for it.

    http://www.powells.com/biblio/71-9780275997809-0

    One of the perverse things about death cases is that they are the, by definition, the most heinous crimes with the greatest emotional drama, which is precisely the class of cases where the workings of the criminal justice system are least reliable and most open to the influence of forces that make bias and mistakes most common.

    Anyone who, like Benito Scalia, claims to be OK with the fact that a death penalty state inevitably will kill innocent people should have to nominate members of their immediate families for inclusion in a random pool from which, every few decade or so, someone is randomly killed by the state using the same process as in normal executions. Because that's about what the poor and minorities face in death states --- an arbitrary and capricious process that has all the fairness and predictability of being hit by lightning.

  • pacnwjay (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Great question! I'm certainly ready for it to be gone, though I've had a journey similar to Vincent's.
    But I think Joe is right too. Oregon is not Vermont. The Western ethos is a bit rougher around the edges. And I agree there would be a considerable political price to pay for an outright attempt to end the death penalty here. But other, logical and more easily digested changes could make the death penalty rare and unlikely. Evidence requirements. Sets of circumstances that could be explained as preventing innocents from being exonerated years later by DNA or other means. I'd let a lawyer/judge lead that conversation, but I imagine it could be done.

  • Joe Hill (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Can someone tell the story of how we repealed the death penalty twice by popular vote and then we reinstated it? What cultural changes happened that made such a retrograde motion thinkable?

  • LT (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Joe, a reporter friend of mine once said "There is considerable debate about whether the death penalty is cruel, but no one would call it unusual" as he was discussing the off/on death penalty history in this state.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
    (Show?)

    If we're not willing to engage the issue directly, then we should at least make some changes:

    1) Remove judicial, prosecutorial, and police immunity for malfeasance and misconduct in the conduct of every phase of a death case.

    That is, if the court, any member of the prosecution, the police, or their agents are found to have engaged in misconduct or malpractice in carrying out their duties, then they are liable to both criminal prosecution if warranted and to civil actions brought by the defendant's family (or estate), with no statute of limitations. So if you "bend the rules" in a death case, you won't be immune from getting nailed for it, ever.

    2) No more buying testimony. The state should not be allowed to offer anything -- not so much as a free ice cream -- to a jailhouse informant. No reduced sentences, no parole recommendations, nothing. The prosecution should be just as unable to buy testimony as the defense.

    3) All interviews/interrogations/questioning of suspects must be videotaped with sound from day 1.

    4) No use of group lineups (where the victim/witness is shown a group of individuals and asked if the suspect is among them). Only sequential lineups.

    5) A mandatory investigation by a neutral forensics team with subpoena power for all felony innocence cases -- cases where a conviction is determined to have been erroneous. The team must have the resources to investigate the police work, the prosecution, and the trial, determine the root cause(s) of the erroneous conviction, and require procedural changes where warranted.

    Prosecutors and judges who are found to have contributed to an erroneous felony conviction shall have that noted in the voters guide for any subsequent election for any judicial or prosecutorial office.

  • Vincent (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Benito Scalia

    I can't tell if you're simply unaware that his first name is Antonin or if you were actually attempting to imply that he's a fascist.

    Either way, it's deeply unimpressive.

  • peter cowan (unverified)
    (Show?)

    yes. end it.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
    (Show?)

    George Seldes:

    Anyone who, like Benito Scalia...

    Vincent:

    I can't tell if you're simply unaware that his first name is Antonin or if you were actually attempting to imply that he's a fascist.

    Either way, it's deeply unimpressive.

    Bob T:

    He's just another one of those people who see USSC justices in a black or white sense when it's more complicated than that. In fact, I guess Georgie had nothing to say when the "fascists" on the court voted the right way on Kelo while the other five made the "fascist" decision, if that's what Georgie wants to call it. And then there's that Florence, Oregon decision when the drug cops used a heat sensor to "search" a house for a grow operation, and big, bad Scalia and four others voted to overturn that evidence because he felt that the word "search" means just that, and that new technology must not be used to get around the good old warrant system which would be needed to make an actual search. Original intent, I guess. In 1789 authorities would have had to make an entry, and over 200 years later they still have to, with a warrant of course. And Justice Stevens, a darling of the blues, disagreed, saying that these warrantless searches ("We're not searching - we're outside in our police van!") were "a reasonable public policy". Just think, another Stevens instead of Scalia and those "searches" would be legal, with no warrant needed.

    Not that we ever here the Blues praise people like Scalia and Thomas (and Rehnquist then) on an issue by issue basis. I'd get rid of Breyer and Ginsburg if I could, but when they are on the right side and, and Thomas and Scalia on the wrong side, I notice it and say so. That's why it's complicated. But no, we hear Scalia called a fascist and Thomas an unintelligent Oreo Cookie. Gee, how nice. Thomas has a better up from the bottom story than Obama ever had -- Obo went to private schools, and was raised by a bank vice president while Clarence Thomas was raised in a crappy house in Dixie with an outhouse.

    Bob Tiernan Portland

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Karol Collymore:

    The death penalty throughout history has been doled out for crimes from murder, treason, stealing horses, being a witch, marrying a Jew or being a bad slave.

    Bob T:

    Don't forget in very, very recent years when the Islamofascists known as the Taliban executed women when they were caught listening to CDs, attending clandestine schools, or showing more than their eyes.

    Bob Tiernan Portland

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Arguments regarding the infallibility of the State are pretty hard to make and getting harder.

    There is something odd in the idea that it is somehow right for the state to kill one of its helpless citizens.

    There is something inherently dishonest in spreading the reponsibility for the act across so wide an area, all the State's citizens, that there is effectively no responsibility for the act.

    Hiding the act rather than publicly viewing it means either that the state is ashamed or the people do not have the stomach for it.

    There is no evidence of deterrence and alternatives exist.

    Safe to say I oppose the death penalty.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Well, I am deeply unimpressed by a rabid homophobe, who helped engineer a judicial coup by inserting the US Supreme Court into a FL state elections case where the plaintiff could not even show an injury, who then proceeded to write an opinion that was so indefensible that the Court declared that it could not be cited as precedent, who defends the appointment of this war criminal, the worst President in US history by shouting "Get Over It!" at people who try to question the basis for his decision, and who claims to be a textualist/originalist while finding some basis for a "single digit multiple" as a Constitutional requirement for limiting damage awards against miscreant corporations.

    In other words, fascist is one of the most accurate things you can call Scalia -- he believes that the State owns the citizen, that it's perfectly OK to run a criminal justice system that kills innocent people, but is always quick to leap to the defense of corporations and that they have rights greater than those of real people.

    The merger of corporate power and state power is the sine qua non of fascism, and Scalia is one of its most ardent advocates. His deeply held bigotry and vicious attacks on gays only flesh out the complete picture of a truly odious individual.

  • Joe Hill (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Scalia would be an excellent argument as to why the death penalty is theoretically intolerable in a just society such as we are trying to be.

    Scalia argues that he interprets the Constitution under the doctrine of "original meaning" (which is how Scalia and the Federalist Society tried to rescue "original intent" once that became thoroughly discredited. Now, as a social scientist, I would argue that this whole quest is a fantasy, and that interpretation precedes meaning (c.f. Heidegger et al.) but let that pass. Let's "judge" Scalia on his own terms.

    Certainly, you'd have trouble finding "original meaning" in the radical partisan Bush v. Gore. But again, that is sui generis, so maybe it doesn't count and Scalia gets a mulligan. As noted above, even the court was so ashamed of its actions that it declared that there was no precedent here. Let it pass.

    I think we have to look to Scalia's opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller (the gun control case) to see how thin Scalia's "original meaning" ideas go. Scalia has to basically twist the clear meaning of the first clause completely away from the second clause, and say, well, over time all of that has not become so important. Hypocrite.

    And that is a very roundabout way of saying why the death penalty is immoral. Our highest legal authority is hypocritical and political and immoral. We cannot expect a fair hearing from our highest court. And since that is true, to the best of our ability, we cannot exact a punishment that cannot be recalled. Q.E.D.

  • Irritator (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Most of the time just having the death penalty availble causes a defendant to stipulate to a true life sentence. If there were not a death penalty as a threat then there would be no incentive not to go to trial and put the victim's family through hell not to mention the local resources to try the case, so the reality is then that DAs would plea offer less than true life sentences and murder suspects would get out earlier. Just having the dp as an option is more effective than actually using it.

    Someone mentioned Ward Weaver, he agreed to true life b/c the state agreed to take the dp off the table. The greenriver killer (Washington State) cleared many cases and provided some measure of closure to victims' families by agreeing to cooperate on unsolved murder cases if the State agreed not to seek the dp. These are not isolated instances.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I have never been a fan of the Death Penalty because of this simple fact: Having a Death Penalty does not fully protect the innocent, especially since some innocent people have been put to death (being wrongly accused, wrongly convicted, ect). Life inprisonment does fully protect the innocent in that you will be still alive when they eventaully find the evidence/people that shows your innocence. Maybe, if we do away with the Death Penalty in Oregon, we keep the automatic appeal process...not that Ward Weaver needs it, but it is needed in general to fully protect the innocent.

  • Naseem Rakha (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The death penalty is the dark heart of our justice system: a questionable practice dealt out in the dead of night with few people watching and few people caring.

    I have covered two executions as a reporter for public radio. I have been in the small room where they strap the men down, and then hook them to IVs. I have met murders and rapists and child abusers, some of the remorseful about their acts. Some unrepentant. All of them saying the existence of the death penalty had no weight in commission of their crimes. I have met the men and women entrusted to carry out the execution — setting up the chamber, counseling the condemned man, walking him to the room, strapping him down, asking for last words — these people attempt to harden their souls from the darkness of their act. Later, they tell me, they feel haunted. And I have met victims so shattered by loss they have no idea how to pick up their lives. Many of these people believe the death penalty will bring them a feeling of vindication and release. It rarely does.

    So the question is, why do we do this? We know there are other paths to justice, and we know there are other ways to heal. We must ask ourselves if we as individuals and a people have the strength and wherewithal to forego a nearly intransigent need for revenge and retribution. The decision requires a deep dredging of our mindsets and goals and a full and compulsory examination of what we want to be when we, as a civilization, grew up.

    In New Mexico, the lawmakers faced down the eye for an eye mentality, and won. Are Oregon voters up for the same task? I do not know.

    Naseem Rakha THE CRYING TREE Broadway Books, July 7, 2009

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
    (Show?)

    One other item I forgot to mention.

    Geting rid of the Death Penalty would eliminate the option of some 'down on thier luck' or 'disturbed' people to use the system as a suicide mechanism. There are some who use the Death Penalty as a way of suicide - simular to those who die of 'suicide by cop'. Why kill yourself with your own hand when you can have the people do it for you?. Eliminating the Death Penalty could result in saving some people from doing some very bad decisions.

  • Roy McAvoy (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The death penalty in Oregon is expensive and really non-existent. It is used only to garner a life sentence guilty plea from those who deserve to be in prison for the rest of their lives. For those few death penalty sentences which are pursued there are endless appeals causing the death sentence to be a more costly prospect in the long run for tax payers. Victims families who do not support the death penalty often argue for a life sentence for the defendant causing inconsistant prosecutions in similar cases.

    The probability that innocent persons might ever be put to death is the overwhelming reason to repeal the death penalty. We know it has happened before in other states. One of the great misunderstandings out there however is how many criminals sentenced to death were later "exonerated". In many of those cases evidence was mishandled, illegally gathered, or introduced into the trial inappropriately. While giving just cause to reverse the death penalty or any sentence in all of those cases, it does not automatically deem the suspect innocent.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
    (Show?)

    "While giving just cause to reverse the death penalty or any sentence in all of those cases, it does not automatically deem the suspect innocent."

    Actually, the phrase "innocent until proven guilty - in a court of law" in the Mirada Rights does deem a suspect automatically innocent. That's why a suspect is given those rights.

  • Murphy (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Yes -- for this simple reason: To support the death penalty, you have to agree to at least one of the following claims:

    1 -- The judicial system is infallible.

    or

    2 -- The potential execution of an innocent person is worth the risk to kill the guilty.

    I'd also like to ask the supporters of the death penalty, if you agree to the second proposition, how many executed, innocent people would it take to change you mind? One, ten, 37?

  • churchill (unverified)
    (Show?)

    torridjoe: "I haven't heard of him killing any more girls lately. The whole imprisonment thing seems to be working out on that one"

    It's so comforting to know Progressives are out there defending child killers. Hey Joe, maybe you could send 'ole Ward some cash in exchange for his autographed picture. You could hang it in your public employee office.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
    (Show?)

    @Roy: "One of the great misunderstandings out there however is how many criminals sentenced to death were later "exonerated". In many of those cases evidence was mishandled, illegally gathered, or introduced into the trial inappropriately. While giving just cause to reverse the death penalty or any sentence in all of those cases, it does not automatically deem the suspect innocent."

    The Innocence Project had over 120 complete exonerations a few years ago. Not reversals for trial errors (which are rampant). That means that, just in the few cases where the identity of the felon could be decided solely on the basis of forensic evidenc, more than 120 men had been erroneously convicted and, in many cases, sentenced to death. See the film "After Innocence" for a look at a few of these men.

    If you read Barry Scheck's book, "Actual Innocence" you will get a lot of information on how known causes of error combine to produce false convictions again, and again, and again. Yet prosecutors and courts suffer no sanction for these cases, where these known sources of error occur (such as "eyewitness identification" -- notoriously unreliable, particularly in cross-racial settings).

    You can tell yourself that actual innocence is rare all you like. The fact is that we don't actually know how prevalent it is, because only in a few cases does the existence of DNA allow a conclusive determination. But that large tip suggests a much larger iceberg underneath.

  • (Show?)

    Get rid of it.

    For the right wing, the death penalty should be eliminated for two reasons.

    First, the moral reason: those who support the sanctity of life cannot support the death penalty.

    Second, the financial reason: death penalty costs far more than life imprisonment.

    And a third reason: opposing the power of the state. We've already seen state incompetence in death penalty cases.

  • Dave G (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The majority of executions around the world are carried out by just a few nations, including China (more than half), Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Civlized nations do not perform executions.

  • Irritator (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The number of exonerations for actual innocence in the last 20 years in the State of Oregon? Zero. Washington? Zero. The Pacific NW is not Chicago, Texas or Louisiana. Not that it can't happen here, just that there is no recent proof that it has.

    Number of Oregon convicted child killers set free for procedural error (took too long to go to trial)= one (Halberts of Clackamas County). Number of people who were convicted of murder who then were released and murdered again? No doubt it is several times the number of "innocent" people who were actually executed on death row. Oregon law indirectly acknowledges this fact since one of the few ways to qualify for Agg Murder (the only type of homicide where the dp is in an opition) in Oregon is having been adjudicated for a murder and then being released and murdering again.

    The DP is not a conservative vs. liberal thing. "Progressive" Obama is in favor of expanding it to child rapists. The poltically "conservative" Catholic Church which harbors and protects these same rapists is opposed to the DP.

    I am with Obama on this one. The rest of you progressives can join the pope.

  • Robert Collins (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I have a mixed point of view on this one.

    I agree that too many people who were innocent have been put to death; the advent of DNA evidence has shown that.

    I used to oppose the death penalty because I think that life in prison without the possibility of parole is a worse penalty than death. I know it would be for me.

    But, there are institutionalized criminals who have spent more time in prison than out who really don't find being in prison objectionable. For some gangs it is in fact a required rite of passage.

    Here's an idea: How about we let the convicted take their pick, death or life in prison without the possiblity of parole?

  • (Show?)

    I appreciate some of the heartfelt comments on the thread--Vincent and Naseem in particular. I would add that the death penalty isn't really about law enforcement (to suggest we need it is to suggest we're not competent to handle crime, a basic premise I refuse to accept), it's a statement of values. Other countries have abandoned it because they don't wish to sign onto the values of executioners.

    To be a country that executes is to suggest that not all human life is valuable. Although religious folks have opinions about this, it's not actually a religious statement. It's a statement of very basic human principles: not all human life matters in this country. This is a kind of medieval barbarism that enlightened countries (I mean that in the sense of the enlightenment) have long forsaken.

    If we are a country that doesn't value human life, what are we capable of? Torture? The killing of innocent civilians? You see, we can't easily sesquester one act of barbarism from another.

    Although I disagree with many, many public policies of the United States, only this one makes me genuinely ashamed. Why are we standing with dictators and thugs rather than joining the community of democracies? Oregon, at least, should make the effort to do the right thing. It's long, long past time.

    Kudos to Governor Richardson.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
    (Show?)

    George Seldes

    In other words, fascist is one of the most accurate things you can call Scalia -- he believes that the State owns the citizen, that it's perfectly OK to run a criminal justice system that kills innocent people

    Bob T:

    Again, if that's the way it's ingrained in him then he would have had no problem with the government using warrantless "searches" on residences to find grow operations (when so much of what is done in the name of the War on Drugs is rubberstamped) -- actions that when followed up often lead to people getting killed by police--even retired pastors when the wrong apartment is raided. Justice Stevens thought it was okay.

    George Seldes:

    but is always quick to leap to the defense of corporations and that they have rights greater than those of real people.

    Bob T:

    Yeah, like his Kelo ruling (joined by the other three big bad conservatives, but not the other five). Corporations love eminent domain, once it became twisted by government, and government loves it, too, so they can pick winners and losers. Sorry, George, but Ginsburg and friends helped the corporations and Scalia and friends preferred that they not get the aid of government force. You're seeing too many things in black and white again.

    Oh wait, is this where you break in and write, "But it was a conservative ruling". No, it wasn't. The only people who say or believe that are embarrassed progressives.

    Bob Tiernan Portland

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
    (Show?)

    @ paul g: one more reason: People who are always talking about how government can't even run a two-car parade without screwing it up should be terrified at the thought of giving government the power to kill.

    (And although people here have not responded to the suggestions that we eliminate immunity for prosecutors and judges who are found to have committed misconduct in death cases, that suggestion usually elicits the response that you have to allow these officers the right to make "mistakes" -- to grant them immunity for their official acts -- or they will be overly cautious and not zealous in carrying out their duties. In other words, people actually do believe that the system REQUIRES that the folks in charge be able to make errors, even when those errors result in killing innocents.)

  • Douglas K. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Another reason to kick the death penalty: it can be used to threaten guilty pleas out of innocent people. This is not speculative and not something that happened "somewhere else."

    In January 1990, Keith Jesperson (later known as the "Happy Face Killer") murdered a woman named Taunja Bennett. The cops found her body, but had no leads. Shortly after that, an apparently disturbed woman named Laverne Pavlinac who heard about the murder on the news wanted to get rid of her (apparently abusive) then-boyfriend, John Sosnovske. She told the cops he was the killer and he had confessed to her. (Previously, she'd tried to turn him into the FBI for a bank robbery. The feds saw through it.) There was NO evidence against him at all, just an uncorroborated confession by an angry girlfriend. (Pavlinac did try to manufacture some evidence along the way, without success.) Pavlinac kept changing her story with the cops, making it fit closer and closer to the evidence as she got more facts from them, and finally changed her story that she was a witness, and then an accomplice, to the killing.

    And there was still NO evidence to link either of them to the crime. Just one hair on Bennett's body that wasn't hers, didn't necessarily belong to the killer, and (being pre-DNA testing) couldn't be tied to anyone. But it could have been Sosnovske's hair, or any of thousands of guys with similar hair, and it might have belonged to someone she'd brushed against walking down the street. But -- armed with an unbelievable, uncorroborated, constantly-changing, and then recanted confession by Pavlinac -- and a hair that probably wasn't Sosnovske's -- the District Attorney took Pavilinac to trial and won a conviction. She was sentenced to ten years as an accomplice.

    That in itself makes me worry about the standards some jurors apply when asked to make a finding "beyond a reasonable doubt."

    But then Sosnovske was brought to trial, and charged with the death penalty. Knowing that neither he nor Pavlinac had anything to do with the crime, and knowing that she had just been convicted on essentially ZERO evidence, and facing death ... he pleaded no contest and accepted a life sentence in prison.

    They served five years in prison. Public review of the case, coupled with anonymous confessions by Jesperson, made it clear they were innocent and convicted on almost no evidence. But they stayed there until Jesperson actually came forward and turned himself in, and backed up his confession by telling them stuff only the killer would know (like showing them where he threw Bennett's purse.) Even after all that, it still took a few months to get Pavlinac and Sovnoske out of prison. Seems it's pretty hard to get a conviction overturned on a mere technicality like being actually innocent.

    That was all right here in Oregon. Innocent people convicted, death penalty used to coerce an innocent man to accept life imprisonment. He'd probably still be there if the real killer hadn't come forward. And if he'd maintained his innocence and stood trial, he might well have wound up on death row.

    Our system is too error-prone to trust with life-and-death decisions. We rely on people to implement, and -- as the Pavlinac/Sosnovske case shows -- it's possible for every check in the system to fail. Even here in Oregon.

  • (Show?)

    I don't recall defending Weaver...just his indefinite sequestration from society. It appears your beef is some misguided emnity towards public employees, in a last refuge of ad hominem that says, "I have no substantive rebuttal, so I'll just lash out (inaccurately) at the commenter.

    Bob T, the Kelo decision was both wronggheaded AND conservative--it elevated private property rights over clear Constitutional precedent backing eminent domain, and in any case ignored the states' perogative to handle their own eminent domain laws.

  • churchill (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Torridjoe - indefinite? Don't count on it. Im sure he'll be part of some progressive rehabilitation program in the future. Back out in the community.

    Hang your autographed picture of Ward with pride.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I oppose capital punishment because I don't think the state, as representative of We The People, ought to be in the business of killing people. I'm not willing to give anyone, including Ward Weaver, a lethal injection, nor am I willing to give my proxy to someone else to do it.

    I also assure you, dear reader, that there are always going to be guys like Ward Weaver who scare the bejeesus out of me and should not be walking free.

    A great deal of the rhetoric around the death penalty seems to reflect a fundamental confusion between justice and revenge. Everyone has, at some point, felt the desire for revenge, which is perhaps a sort of primal, instinctual desire. Justice is something that engages the human faculty for reason, however.

    Tiernan sez: "we hear Scalia called a fascist and Thomas an unintelligent Oreo Cookie."

    "BENITO SCALIA": That's brilliant satire, got to remember that. As for Thomas, will Mr. Tiernan please tell exactly when he has read a characterization of Clarence Thomas as "an unintelligent Oreo Cookie" on Blue Oregon? And who made such a statement? Because it's got the distinct flavor of a strawman claim, Mr. Tiernan.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The death penalty is not about protecting society, it's about exacting vengeance, and using an anonymous executioner to do it. If the real value is protecting society, and the bottom line value for most Americans is that, then life imprisonment without any possibility of parole for capital crimes is cheaper, easier, and more just.

  • Ian McDonald (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Is it time for Oregon to be 16th? To bend the question slightly: I'm not sure about the timing. You could argue that the death penalty will whither on the vine, without any formal attempt to eliminate it. How much effort, in the current environment, is it worth right now?

    But I'm surprised by the level of death penalty support expressed in the comments here. I would encourage fence sitters to read the article about Roland Burris in New Yorker article this week. Burris (the Blagojevich appointed Illinois senator), as the state Attorney General, pressed for the execution of two men in a high profile murder case, in order to establish tough-on-crime bona fides. The two men were found innocent based on DNA evidence. The case is very creepy, partly because Burris, to this day, has no apologies for seeking their execution.

    Find the article here

  • (Show?)

    Yes, it's time to repeal the death penalty.

    I don't buy into Jeff's definitions of barbarians vs. civilized people. In a world of absolute certainty regarding verdicts, I'd favor thinning the herd without a qualm. Some people are so badly damaged and such a threat to the rest of us, that they no longer fit my definition of human.

    Guess that makes me a barbarian by Jeff's measure.

    However, the "one innocent life" argument is the bottom line for me and I wind up favoring "life without", as legal perfection is impossible to achieve.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
    (Show?)

    "The death penalty is not about protecting society, it's about exacting vengeance"

    Which is why we need to get rid of the Death Penalty. The 'eye for an eye' mentality eventually ends up with no one having any eyes left to see the mistakes of the past.

    I guess this is where we get the saying 'Justice is blind'?

  • (Show?)

    On the question of expanding the death penalty to child rapists or other types of SOBs, be careful not to make the punishment for crimes other than murder equivalent to the punishment for murder. If you do, you create an incentive to silence victims by killing them since the penalty would be the same for either outrage. In Henry VIII's time they executed minors for stealing bread but still had extremely high levels of crime. Go figure.

    Most probably agree that violent offenders need to be off the streets; chronic violet offenders need to be off the streets for good. But considering the realities of life in a state or federal prison, it's an open question to me whether death is a more severe penalty than life without parole.

  • Irritator (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Were the UK, US, and USSR wrong to execute the Nazi's at Nuremburg? Based on the majority of these comments it seems we were.

    I wonder if Ms. Rakha would have wrote a sad book about those poor Nazis being forced to climb the steps of the gallows and how the Hollocaust survivors really didn't feel any better afterwards?

  • Vincent (unverified)
    (Show?)

    In other words, fascist is one of the most accurate things you can call Scalia

    Only if you're basically unaware of what "fascism" is.

    The merger of corporate power and state power is the sine qua non of fascism

    I assume it's at this point when you trot out the old Mussolini quote about "corporatism" without actually understanding what he meant by that.

    At which point I'll inform you that "corporation" isn't exactly what you take it to mean in the modern sense.

    Then you'll respond with the rhetorical equivalent of "nuh-uh, he really is a fascist and so was Bush!"

    To which I'll be forced to respond that if you really believe that Bush, Scalia, et al. were really fascists based on a few superficial similarities that you read about on a message board somewhere, then surely you'll agree that Barack Obama is a fascist, too, since he's following in Mussolini's footsteps by assuming more direct control of the financial system by the government and engaging in massive public works programs.

    You'll reply, of course, with something along the lines that superficial similarities between modern American politicians who aren't Republicans and Italian Fascists don't mean anything, but Scalia and Bush (and Cheney, etc.) really are! and go on to "prove", based on a host of superficial similarities, why your position is correct.

    Then I'll roll my eyes and stop responding to you and you'll call me out for "running away" from the debate and toss out a few more "gotcha!" quotes just for good measure.

    As you can see, however, the whole "[conservatives] are fascists because of this thing I read about Mussolini" song and dance has long since turned into a paint-by-numbers affair.

    So let's just save everyone the time and just not bother, shall we?

  • Vincent (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Torridjoe - indefinite? Don't count on it. Im sure he'll be part of some progressive rehabilitation program in the future.

    "Free Ward" doesn't quite have the same ring to it as "Free Mumia."

  • Vincent (unverified)
    (Show?)

    As for Thomas, will Mr. Tiernan please tell exactly when he has read a characterization of Clarence Thomas as "an unintelligent Oreo Cookie" on Blue Oregon?

    A simple Google search for "Clarence Thomas oreo" should ease any fears you have that Mr. Tiernan was erecting a straw man.

  • Douglas K. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    A simple Google search for "Clarence Thomas oreo" should ease any fears you have that Mr. Tiernan was erecting a straw man.

    A simple Google search for "Clarence Thomas oreo Blue Oregon" shows that nobody on Blue Oregon posted any such reference until Mr. Tiernan brought it up.

  • Dudley Sharp (unverified)
    (Show?)

    SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: A Rebuttal to Governor Richardson Repeal of the Death Penalty in New Mexico Dudley Sharp, contact info below

    1) Gov. Bill Richardson states: "Faced with the reality that our system for imposing the death penalty can never be perfect, my conscience compels me to replace the death penalty with a solution that keeps society safe." (1)

    REBUTTAL: There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US since 1900. There is overwhelming proof that many thousands of innocents have been murdered because of the lack of perfection in parole, probation, early release, prison/jail management etc.

    Why did the Governor choose to end that criminal justice practice - the death penalty - which may be the least likely to result in innocent deaths?

    Lack of perfection had nothing to do with his decision.

    In addition, the death penalty protects innocents at a higher level than does a life sentence. (FOOTNOTE: "Death penalty repeal arguments are false" paragraph 2 & 3).

    No one disputes that the death penalty has greater due process than lesser sentences - meaning that actual innocents, serving life, are more likely to die in prison than are actual innocents likely to be executed.

    2) Governor Richardson stated: "The bill I am signing today .. . replaces the death penalty with true life without the possibility of parole – a sentence that ensures violent criminals are locked away from society forever .. . ." . (1)

    REBUTTAL: Governor Richardson knows that there is no such thing as true life without "possibility" of parole.

    The only absolute with sentencing is that the executive branch, a Governor or President, can commute any sentence and release criminals, early - as Governor Richardson did, in Nov. 2004, when he commuted Janet Vigil's "life" case. (2)

    How quickly he "forgot".

    Gov. Richardson's buddy, former New Mexico Gov. Toney Anaya, commuted William Wayne Gilbert's death sentence in 1986.

    Gilbert led a 7 inmate prison escape, a few months later, where Gilbert shot a guard. (3)

    Gilbert had previously murdered " . . . his wife, Carol; a newlywed couple, Kenn and Noel Johnson, and a young model, Barbara McMullen. He bragged of other murders, as well. 'It was very easy to kill," he said. "It's almost like it's the night before Christmas when you're 5 years old.' "

    Hardly a great candidate for commutation. But, this commutation wasn't about the criminal or about the citizens of New Mexico. It was all about Gov. Anaya. His commutations of all death row, had nothing to do with allegations of protecting innocents - it did just the opposite, of course - he just didn't like the death penalty and he takes no responsibility for the outcome.

    In addition, legislatures can write new laws which, retroactively, reduce sentences already given.

    Gov. Richardson is aware that states around the US are, now, doing just that, as more consider reducing life sentences to save money by releasing lifers, early.

    3) The Governor stated: "More than 130 death row inmates have been exonerated in the past 10 years in this country, including four New Mexicans – a fact I cannot ignore." (1)

    <h2>REBUTTAL: The Governor has been informed, repeatedly, that the 130 exonerated is a complete fraud, as has been well documented by many and presented to the Governor, often (FOOTNOTE, paragraph 3). Not only is he not ignoring this deception, he is advancing it, even when it is so easy to disprove. Governor, how many innocents were harmed and murdered because of the lack of perfection in parole, probation, early release, prison/jail management etc.?</h2>

    4) What about law enforcements' concerns?

    "The New Mexico Sheriffs' and Police Association opposed repeal, saying capital punishment deters violence against police officers, jailers and prison guards. District attorneys also opposed the legislation, arguing that the death penalty was a useful prosecutorial tool." (4)

    They told the Governor that the death penalty saves lives and helped solve cases.

    The Governor conceded that "the death penalty may be a deterrent"(1), thereby telling us that the death penalty is more likely to save innocent lives than it is to take them.

    He also conceded that by repealing the death penalty he was taken away a tool for law enforcement. (1) He didn't speculate how many innocent lives he was sacrificing by ending that tool.

    We may never know why he really ended the death penalty. We do know that it had nothing to do with saving innocent lives.

    "Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White said law enforcement officers have 'lost a layer of protection and it's a sad day in New Mexico.' " (4)

    (1) Gov. Bill Richardson's statement on signing the repeal of New Mexico's death penalty (3/18/09)

    (2) " In Loving Memory of Estevan Vigil", http://www.nmsoh.org/vigil_estevan_mem.htm

    (3) "Let Loose by the Governor", The Justice Story, The New York Daily News, 3/11/07 http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2007/03/11/2007-03-11_let_loose_by_the_governor.html

    (4) "New Mexico governor signs measure to abolish death penalty" DEBORAH BAKER, Associated Press Writer, Originally published Wednesday, March 18, 2009 at 5:21 PM

    <hr/>

    FOOTNOTE: "Death penalty repeal arguments are false"

    In a message dated 3/17/2009 4:37:39 P.M. Central Daylight Time, Sharpjfa writes:

    To: Governor Richardson, staff and cabinet and Corrections Department and Police Agencies and media throughout New Mexico

    From: Dudley Sharp, contact info, below

    Dear Honorable Governor Richardson:

    In addition to all of the pro-repeal arguments being weak or false (see below), the death penalty should remain as the just sanction for some of the worst crimes.

    JUSTICE: The death penalty should remain in New Mexico because of justice. New Mexico is currently investigating serial murders which, to date, have reached 14 victims. Leave the death penalty option up to New Mexico jurors, for such cases as this, as well as the rape/murder of children and the murder of police officers and correction workers and other crimes.

    1) COST SAVINGS

    The LFC fiscal evaluation wrongly found the North Carolina death penalty more expensive than a 20 year "life" sentence. It wasn't. The was the only study cited (1)

    Reasonable and responsible protocols, currently in use, will produce a death penalty which will cost less or no more than LWOP. (2)

    Example: Virginia executes in 5-7 years; 65% of those sentenced to death have been executed; 15% of their death penalty cases are overturned. With the high costs of long term imprisonment, a true life sentence will be more expensive than such a death penalty protocol. (2)

    Most cost studies suffer from major problems, such as a) not crediting the death penalty for allowing plea bargains to a true life sentence ( $300,000 to $1 million savings or more, for each plea); 2) not including geriatric care for life sentences (cost of $60,000-$90, 000/year/inmate); c) deceptively inflating costs of executions, based upon putting all the costs of every death penalty case into those executed (see Florida); d) many more such problems, or even worse. (2)

    2) MORE PROTECTION FOR INNOCENTS

    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.

    Innocents are more protected because of enhanced due process, enhanced incapacitation and enhanced deterrence. (3)

    Anti death penalty folks claim that 130 "innocents" have been released from death row, nationally. Fact checking easily uncovers this as a scam. Study reviews have found that 70-83% of those claims are not credible. Possibly 25 "actual" innocents have been identified and released from death row. (4)

    There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.

    There is overwhelming proof that living murderers harm and murder, again. Executed ones don't.

    3) 16 recent studies find for DETERRENCE

    16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses, find for death penalty deterrence. No surprise. Life is preferred over death, death is feared more than life. (5)

    There is a constant within all jurisdictions -- negative consequences will always deter some - a truism.

    NOTE: Repeal proponents bring up that many death penalty states have higher murder rates than non death penalty states. That has nothing to do with the deterrent effect failing, as fully explained to them and you in a previous email. (6)

    Whether a jurisdiction has high murder rates or low ones, rather rising or lowering rates, the presence of the death penalty will produce fewer net murders, the absence of the death penalty will produce more net murders.

    An analogy. Consider smoking. Whether a jurisdiction has high smoking rates or low ones, or rising or lowering rates, the knowledge of medical problems from smoking will produce fewer net smokers, the absence of any medical problems from smoking would produce more net smokers.

    1. STRONG PUBLIC SUPPORT

    80% death penalty support, for specific capital murders, such as mass murder, serial murders, rape/murders, terrorism, etc. (6)

    -- 82% in the US favor executing Saddam Hussein, In Great Britain: 69%, France: 58%, Germany: 53%, Spain: 51%, Italy: 46%. , Le Monde (France) , 12/06
    -- 81% support Timothy McVeigh's execution - "the consensus of all major groups, including men, women, whites, nonwhites, "liberals" and "conservatives." 16% oppose (Gallup 5/2/01). -- 85% of liberal Connecticut supported serial/rapist murderer Michael Ross' "voluntary" execution. (Quinnipiac 1/12/05) -- 79% support death penalty for terrorists (4/26/2007 New York State poll) -- 78% of Nebraskans support death penalty for “heinous crimes.” 16% opposed. 76% opposed legislation to abolish. MPB Public Affairs Poll, 2/14/08)

    Most quoted polls wrongly poll for murder, not capital murders. The death penalty is only an option in capital cases. Possibly, 10% of all murder cases are death eligible. Those are the only cases relevant to death penalty polling.

    5) THE LEAST ARBITARY PUNISHMENT

    The US death penalty is likely the least arbitrary and capricious criminal sanctions in the US. About 60,000 murders qualified for a death penalty eligible trial, since 1973. 8000 murderers were so sentenced or 13% of those eligible. Based upon pre trial, trial, appellate and clemency/commutation realities and that high percentage (13%) of receiving the maximum sentence (absent mandatory sentences) the death penalty must be the least arbitrary and capricious sanction.

    <hr/>

    Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part, is approved with proper attribution.

    Respectfully submitted, Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters e-mail [email protected], 713-622-5491, Houston, Texas

    Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBC, 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

    1) "LFC Fiscal Error: Death Penalty Repeal - For Senate Judiciary Committee Record" email to Senate, 3/9/2009 6:11:28 P.M. Central Daylight Time 2) "Cost Savings: The Death Penalty: For Senate Judiciary Committee Record", email to Senate, 3/9/2009 4:45:21 P.M. Central Daylight Time 3) "Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents" NM, email to Governor Richardson, legislature and media, 3/4/2009 2:49:23 P.M. Central Daylight Time 4) "The death row 130 "innocents" scam" NM, email to Governor Richardson, legislature and media, 3/4/2009 1:36:11 P.M. Central Standard Time 5) "The Death Penalty is a Deterrent - 16 Recent Studies", NM, email to Governor Richardson, legislature and media on 3/4/2009 1:31:35 P.M. Central Daylight Time 6) "Death Penalty and Deterrence: Let's be clear" NM, email to Governor Richardson, legislators and media on 3/4/2009 1:52:09 P.M. Central Standard Time

  • Laura Graser (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Karol: you need to re-read the DOC site: there are a number of men on death row in their 50's and 60's, one in his 70's.

  • Douglas K. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US since 1900.

    Note the weasel-word: there is no "proof." The United States could have executed dozens or even hundreds of innocent people since 1900, but there is no "proof" they were innocent because, well, they were legally guilty when executed, and once they are dead legal process stops. A carcass has no standing for further courtroom procedures, and the guilty sentence is forever a part of the legal record.

    Mr. Sharp may want to hide his head in the sand and defend the death penalty on the basis that we've gone over a century without executing a legally innocent person. (Never mind that there is a huge difference between being innocent under the law and innocent in fact.) In a sense, his blind faith in the legal system is kind of touching.

    But I'm an attorney. I work with the legal system all the time, and I've seen first-hand what kind of mistakes it can make. I sure as hell wouldn't want to trust someone's life to it.

    There have been over 1100 executions in this country since 1976. Unless our system is better than 99.95% accurate, some of them were actually innocent.

  • Douglas K. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    read twice, post once, and always finish your edits. I should have said "guilty verdict" not "guilty sentence."

  • (Show?)

    Some people are so badly damaged and such a threat to the rest of us, that they no longer fit my definition of human.

    Pat, I unaware of any serious argument that life without parole doesn't work. This is a canard--much as every justification that has been offered to support it. It's a policy of vengeance, a moral comment more appropriate for pre-historical days. Shouldn't we have evolved past "an eye for an eye"?

  • Rule Of Law (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Onward Christian soldiers, screwing all in the ass...

    Maryland has shown the way:

    On Wednesday, March 1, 2006, at a hearing on the proposed Constitutional Amendment to prohibit gay marriage, Jamie Raskin, professor of law at AU, was requested to testify.

    At the end of his testimony, Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs said: Mr. Raskin, my Bible says marriage is only between a man and a woman. What do you have to say about that?"M And an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Vengence is mine sayeth the Americaner! Raskin replied: "Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."

    The room erupted into applause.

  • Bella Abzug Your Zygon (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Some people are so badly damaged and such a threat to the rest of us, that they no longer fit my definition of human.

    I hate cherry picking. And those born with critical birth defects aren't? Are you arguing for general eugenics?

    Conservatives like to have delusions of persecution, but they just can't grasp the basics. You don't make sense. Your logic is internally inconsistent. Man, the Dems do suck a lot. You know why? No one has put a coherent argument to them in years.

  • Ian McDonald (unverified)
    (Show?)

    This is off topic: how does Blue Oregon deal with spambots, such as "Dudley Sharp"? Is polite ignoring the common practice?

    I've been researching the claim about "no innocents have been executed since 1900", and this name appears everywhere.

    For me, spamming comment threads should be punishable by....oh, I won't say it.

    As for the claim, I am presuming it falls in the "repeat a lie often enough and it becomes true" category. Even after you get over the bar of "proof".

  • Idaho River Journeys (unverified)
    (Show?)

    JK, aka "billy", proves there is no such thing

  • Brian C. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Though I'm not at all opposed to the concept of having a death penalty, it has devolved into little more than an expensive killing joke in our society. It has no teeth, especially in this state. Get rid of it already.

  • Joe Hill (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Churchill: When you take a logical argument like torridjoe's that is NOT ad hominem and then twist it, completely out of thin air, TWICE, into a "you love a child-molesting murderer" attack, with NO evidence at all . . . that's bullshit and out of bounds.

    If you have a point to make, make it with data. When you attempt to slime people without even the appearance of evidence, just juvenile namecalling, it marks you as a troll.

    Quit it.

  • Gary Gilmore (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Before, page two, this was a great thread. It still is. It's a credit to the blog, imho.

    The point about vengence is well taken. I would not mind, for one, if conservatives debated it in those terms. Dressing it up with bad science isn't good for anyone.

  • Bologna on Wonderbread (unverified)
    (Show?)

    In 1981, a teenaged relative of Ward Weaver's reported that he had repeatedly raped and beat her. Police investigated allegations of abuse in 1981, but Multnomah County prosecutors decided not to pursue charges against Mr. Weaver (who was 18 years old).

    In August 2001, Ashley Pond accused Weaver of attempting to rape her, but the police didn't investigate. On January 9, 2002, Ashley disappeared on her way to school. Friends and family, including Miranda Gaddis, began to search for her.

    Two months later, on March 8, Miranda Gaddis vanished. Neither girl was ever seen alive again. After the girls vanished, Weaver (with the help of his son), dug a hole in his yard and covered it with cement; Weaver told his son it was a pad for a hot tub.

    On August 13, Weaver was arrested for raping his son's 19-year-old girlfriend.

    Ward Weaver deserves to die for the rape/murder/abuse of two little girls. Instead, he will get three square meals a day, free health care, and a warm place to sleep for the rest of his life. He deserved the death penalty, but he didn't get. Others, just as evil as Ward Weaver, will follow in his footsteps: they should know there is a chance they may pay with their lives.

  • (Show?)

    "Capital punishment, like the rest of the criminal justice system, is a government program, so skepticism is in order" -George F. Will

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
    (Show?)

    "There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US since 1900"

    Really? I thought Sacco and Vanzetti were the poster children for innocents executed under the Death Penalty.

    To wit...from Wikipedia...

    "Sacco and Vanzetti were convicted and executed via electrocution on August 23, 1927 in Massachusetts for the 1920 armed robbery and murder of a pay-clerk and a security guard in Braintree, Massachusetts. The case continues to incite controversy based on questions regarding culpability, the question of the innocence or guilt of Sacco and Vanzetti, and conformance, the question of whether the trials were fair to Sacco and Vanzetti."

    ...and there are scores of undocumented ones, especially in the South.

  • (Show?)

    I don't think any modern writer has exposed the notion of "blind justice" better than Langston Hughes in his 1923 poem, "Justice":

    That Justice is a blind goddess Is a thing to which we blacks are wise: Her bandage hides two festering sores That once perhaps were eyes.

  • (Show?)

    Dan, I just fell in love with you a little.

  • fbear (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Here are words to put a chill down the spine of anyone with a functional cerebral cortex:

    Claims of actual innocence based on newly discovered evidence have never been held to state a ground for federal habeas relief absent an independent constitutional violation occurring in the underlying state criminal proceeding....This rule is grounded in the principle that federal habeas courts sit to ensure that individuals are not imprisoned in violation of the Constitution—not to correct errors of fact. [Herrera v. Collins, June 25, 1993]

    Yes, it's true, actual innocence is not grounds for habeas relief, according to William Rehnquist.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
    (Show?)

    "Others, just as evil as Ward Weaver, will follow in his footsteps: they should know there is a chance they may pay with their lives."

    Not that this deters them, so exactly why do you want to pay much more for their trials and appeals before their eventual demise?

  • Bologna on Wonderbread (unverified)
    (Show?)

    George,

    How could you possibly know what deters a potential rapist or serial killer?

    I don't care if it costs ten times more to execute (rather than incarcerate) an animal like Ward Weaver: he deserves to die.

    If a convicted murderer pled guilty, and his culpability is evidenced by physical evidence (i.e. rotting corpses in the freezer and under the porch of his home), I am willing to suggest the risk of executing an innocent man is non-existent. We need to revise the statutes to move Ward Weaver to the front of the line, and expedite his appeals.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)
    (Show?)

    "How could you possibly know what deters a potential rapist or serial killer?"

    We don't. That has been the problem from the get go with Death Penalty.

    It has been well documented that when an entity enacts a Death Penalty, crimes that fall under the penalty increase sharply for a while. The people who commit these acts usually are either not caring about if they get caught or are using the crime to commit a personal suicide they can not do themselves.

    Or are they?

    "he deserves to die"

    Maybe we feel that way, but does he? He may be the type of person that wants to die and giving him his wish is not a deterrant, whereas just letting him live would be a fitting punishment if he wanted to die and we won't do it for his ambitious enjoyment. Besides, after what he told Miranda's sister, it's a sure bet he is history either way. Too bad there isn't a third option after life or death.

    It works both ways. After a while, what a person 'deserves' become a moot point with proper aging.

  • fbear (unverified)
    (Show?)

    One aspect of the death penalty that is truly frightening that hasn't yet been mentioned here is that juries in DP cases are pre-disposed to conviction.

    In trials where the prosecution is seeking the death penalty, potential jurors who oppose the death penalty are excluded from serving.

    Those who do serve are more likely to believe the prosecution and not believe the defense. So, if you're wrongly accused, because the prosecution has asked for the death penalty you're more likely to be wrongfully convicted.

    And, as I noted in my previous post, the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that actual innocence is not grounds for an appeal.

  • mlw (unverified)
    (Show?)

    If you're convinced it should be abolished, put it on the ballot. I'm pretty sure the public will continue to want a death penalty. We should respect the democratic process.

  • Douglas K. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    "Deterrence" is a joke. The death penalty doesn't deter most crimes of violence. In fact, punishment itself doesn't work if people think they won't get caught. If serial killers and rapists were rational people worried about consequences, they wouldn't be committing crimes in the first place, even if the punishment was just five years in prison.

    You want a death penalty with a deterrent effect? Apply it to crimes that involve planning and a risk-benefit analysis. Execute a few insider-traders, and insider-trading will end. Make tax evasion a capital offense, and tax cheats will vanish overnight.

    But trying to "deter" crimes of anger, desperation, or sheer uncontrolled impulse? Forget it.

  • (Show?)

    While we're on this, news this morning that Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) is launching a commission to conduct a complete review of the nation's criminal justice system. From the release:

    America's criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. Its irregularities and inequities cut against the notion that we are a society founded on fundamental fairness. Our failure to address this problem has caused the nation's prisons to burst their seams with massive overcrowding, even as our neighborhoods have become more dangerous. We are wasting billions of dollars and diminishing millions of lives.

    .

    Amen.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
    (Show?)

    As far as I can tell, "deterrence" is fundamentally a faith-based concept. I don't think there's any way to actually test the claim that the death penalty deters crime. The claims amount, at best, to post hoc special pleading relying on cherry-picked statistics.

    The whole "deterrence" argument is analogous to the common Cold War claim that the only things preventing a Soviet invasion of western Europe were, say, US troops and "theater" nuclear weapons stationed in Europe. The claim is untestable because we don't get to re-run history with those troops and nukes NOT there.

    The death penalty is about vengeance, not about justice. I noted this already and so have other commenters.

  • Mrs.Todd (unverified)
    (Show?)

    There is nothing wrong with retribution, look at the War Crimes Trial of the Nazis. Nobody argued that the death penalty would keep future genocides from happening, or that it was too expensive to try the bas_tar*s. It was just good ole fashion hanging of bad guys. You can throw statistics at me all day and I am not going to argue with them, I understand my decision is based more on emotion, but it is an emotional reaction I (and may I add most of the country) inherently feel good about.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
    (Show?)

    joel dan walls:

    As for Thomas, will Mr. Tiernan please tell exactly when he has read a characterization of Clarence Thomas as "an unintelligent Oreo Cookie" on Blue Oregon? And who made such a statement? Because it's got the distinct flavor of a strawman claim, Mr. Tiernan.

    Bob T:

    I never said that type of remark on Thomas was made by anyone on Blue Oregon. It is said by many other like-minded people. Please read carefully next time.

    Bob Tiernan Portland

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Back to the topic, I support getting rid of the death penalty but it must be done state by state or by an amendment to the US Constitution for any ruling saying that it is unconstitutional would be twisting it again. This must be accompanied by more life sentences that are really life, and no more of the seven year sentences for murder, or paroles after seven years. Popular support for a total ban depends on whether or not they see these pieces of garbage remain behind bars (Biegenwald, the New Jersey man who murdered a number of young females and buried some in his mother's backyard in Staten Island, had been in prison in Florida for murder and released after 17 years. Gee, that really worked.

    Bob Tiernan Portland

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Mrs T: "I understand my decision is based more on emotion, but it is an emotional reaction I (and may I add most of the country) inherently feel good about."

    Shorter Mrs. T: Don't confuse me with facts, my mind's made up.

    The whole point of a criminal justice system is to improve the wellbeing of society, despite the unfortunate fact that people are animals with a thin overlay of social tendencies (feeling beings who have thoughts, rather than thinking beings with feelings, as we like to fancy ourselves). As such, we have a tendency to act according to our more fundamental animal natures. A progressive criminal justice system does not ignore that there are people whose impulse control is so deficient that they must be isolated from the rest for the safety of all. But no justice system worthy of the name tolerates a system where, every so often, entirely innocent members are placed at risk of execution in order to satisfy the bloodlust of the rest.

    One need only spend some time at the Death Penalty Information Center website to realize that the states with the most active death chambers are not the states to emulate.

  • Steve Rosenbaum (unverified)
    (Show?)

    yes

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The U.S. War Crimes Act (1996) defines a war crime to include a "grave breach of the Geneva Conventions", "... committed against persons or property protected by the Convention: willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment...willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health."

    It requires the death penalty for perpetrators if the breach resulted in the death of one or more victims.

    Until we are willing to imprison and execute the elite criminals of the last four administrations for their war crimes, we must end the practice of executing anyone else.

  • (Show?)

    Up until a few years ago, I had always been on the fence about the death penalty. However, the last few years I have been leaning further against it. I do believe it is possible for someone who is innocent to be convicted and sentenced to death (even despite appeals having it carried out).

    I'm skeptical a measure would pass though given voter's general attitude toward things like this.

  • Aaron V. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    churchill - I want Ward Weaver to have a long, painful life inside prison walls. Somehow, I think you want him to have death's sweet release from being confined like a caged animal and having none of the freedoms free law-abiding people take for granted.

    Let's face it - conservatives who support the death penalty also want us to go to prison for specious offenses, and want free people to live like prisoners.

  • (Show?)

    RE George Will's inanity of the day("Capital punishment, like the rest of the criminal justice system, is a government program, so skepticism is in order"):

    Anything George Will says merits skepticism. As to the death penalty in cases where there is direct evidence, there's no difference between it and garbage disposal.

  • George Anonymuncule Seldes (unverified)
    (Show?)

    @ Lee: "As to the death penalty in cases where there is direct evidence, there's no difference between it and garbage disposal."

    Lots of death-penalty qualified juries find certain homicides quite acceptable (such as "Burning Bed" type cases).

    The first step in a successful homicide defense where there's no question that the defendant killed the victim is to prove that "he needed killing." The problems with the death penalty don't just turn on erroneous convictions. There's an even more difficult problem that has nothing to do with doubt about who did what.

    That is sentencing problem. In America, due process requires two irreconcilable imperatives: fairness (non-bias) and consistency in sentencing AND sentences that reflect individual consideration of the particular circumstances of the case. The more you try to satisfy one of these imperatives, the less you can satisfy the other.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Actually, Karol, WA state does have lethal injection as a tool for execution. They kept hanging as a choice for the condemned. Lethal injection may well be more "humane" than death by hanging, but WA has both. an aside, do "humane", and "death penalty" even belong in the same discussion?

    The WA forms of execution were perverted by a guy named Rupe who refused to choose (hanging being the default choice) and then literally ate himself beyong 300 lbs in order to argue that hanging was not "humane" in that his advanced weight might pop off his head if the sentance were carried out.

    I am against the deth penalty purely on financial grounds. The needless costs, blockage of the legal system and resources wasted the unending process of appeals is insanity. Also, for those who admit the death penalty as punishment which is greater punishment; Ridgeway living out the rest of his natural life imprisoned or put to death fro the mutliple Green River killings?

    Many across the political spectrum would embrace repealing the death penalty if it were replaced with an iron clad life sentance without parole.

  • Cowpers Witcher (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Posted by: Eric Parker | Mar 26, 2009 2:56:05 PM

    "The death penalty is not about protecting society, it's about exacting vengeance"

    Which is why we need to get rid of the Death Penalty. The 'eye for an eye' mentality eventually ends up with no one having any eyes left to see the mistakes of the past.

    I guess this is where we get the saying 'Justice is blind'?

    Spot on Eric. I just take the additional step and say that the reason for the degeneration is population saturation. Life is cheap because it's cheap.

  • Idaho River Journeys (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Posted by: Douglas K. | Mar 26, 2009 3:42:23 PM

    A simple Google search for "Clarence Thomas oreo" should ease any fears you have that Mr. Tiernan was erecting a straw man.

    A simple Google search for "Clarence Thomas oreo Blue Oregon" shows that nobody on Blue Oregon posted any such reference until Mr. Tiernan brought it up.

    It's a little more complicated. It seems that one has to google it while it's on the front page, for it to end up in the google cache later. A simple check of your favorite posting pseudonym and "blue oregon" will show that.

  • The Most Honorable Lester J. Frothingham III (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Clarence Thomas oreo

    What's he's full of on the inside isn't white, it's crapola. He's a fudge brownie.

  • Gary Gilmore (unverified)
    (Show?)

    So, we have a kind of agreement. It's about seeing perps suffer; some want it, some think it's barbaric. At the very least, we must agree that having them sit for 10 years under our maintenance and continued court appeal is stupid. If you want animal satisfaction, it's better warm. If you want justice, time is your friend. Commute as the default option. If not, be prepared to argue for the cost.

  • rlw (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Idaho, that's not necessarily true about front page etc... I've had the misfortune of ill-tempered BO conversations going waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay south and staying on Google and other engines in a way that could break your heart. If it's been uttered, you will find it. Try dog pile and such... they never update, so if you've done yourself some harm, you WILL find it there. Go somewhere besides Google to find out the past on that phrase.

  • Best Justice Money Can Buy (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I moved here from Germany, five years ago, and will soon be returning (in disgust). The bottom line is that your politics is nowhere mature enough to even be talking about this. The justice in this country is for sale, the pols are crude hacks, you consider nothing that does not have an electoral majority, you have replaced English class consciousness with constant race awareness, and the electorate don't have the intelligence to choose smart from what's on the menu...but somehow are fit to decide who lives and who dies.

    This country is full of violence and killers. It is perpetrated by the people you see everyday. But murder, that's killing when society says it isn't cool. Better kill them too. Meanwhile, the virtual 8 year olds, that can see that the 6 year old thinking of an eye for an eye is dumb, consider themselves true intelligentia.

  • Douglas K. (unverified)
    (Show?)

    This actually innocent guy in Texas didn't get the death penalty ... but he died in prison before he was cleared, so he might as well have.

    This is not a system that should have the power of life and death over its citizens.

  • Peter Hall (unverified)
    (Show?)
    <h2>The problem with the death penalty is we are killing people for the wrong reason. We should kill someone for who they are as well as for what they've done. Adding the stipulation that a person has to be assessed as a sociopath and have a previous violent criminal record should greatly reduce mistakes.</h2>

connect with blueoregon