Rick Halperin & SMU: Dead Wrong on the death penalty
Dudley Sharp, contact info below
RE: Reply to Rick Halperin’s “Why don’t people in Texas talk about the death penalty?” (1)
Prof. Halperin is director of Southern Methodist U. Embrey Human Rights Program and is a well know anti death penalty activist
From: Dudley Sharp, a pro death penalty guy
There is a difference between open discussion and fair debate and what Rick Halperin presents, which is one sided and false propaganda and indoctrination.
I suspect this is just how students are taught this topic at SMU, which is, likely, confirmed by:
SMU’s “Death Penalty Matters: Fall 2010 Series.” (2)
Which is an indoctrination series presenting the anti death penalty view, with a series of anti death penalty speakers, also easily rebutted and sponsored by only anti death penalty groups.
It is a very sad illustration as to how, blatantly, one sided and biased academic institutions have become, to the point they make no effort to disguise it. It appears accepted and encouraged.
In rebuttal of Prof. Halperin:
1) Folks aren’t put on death row based upon the racial makeup of the population, but  because of the commission of capital murders. Prof. Halperin’s misdirection is common anti death penalty nonsense.  Better to look at some realities that actually matter, such as the commission of capital murders by all races and tonicities.
Yes, Prof. Halperin may have some studies which do find bias, some of those studies which I have rebutted elsewhere.  But, a discussion does incorporate both sides.
2. I have never seen a study which said that police chiefs find that the death penalty deters none. I suppose the DPIC could target only anti death penalty police chiefs and get the pre arranged answers that DPIC wanted. That would be expected. However, as all prospects of a negative outcome deter some, finding that the death penalty deters none is irrational.
What I have seen are polls wherein police chiefs say that the death penalty may have little effect in reducing crime rates. Of course, that is true, as capital murders represent the lowest numbers and percentages of all crimes committed, any reduction in those crimes would have the least effect on crime rates. Even if death penalty deterrence only reduces murders by 90-900 murders per year, as the recent studies find, that will represent an imperceptible reduction in the crime rate, but a huge and important saving of innocent lives.
3. Unquestionably, the death penalty has the greatest due process protections of any criminal justice sanction in the US. I doubt any knowledgeable person would honestly disagree with that finding. I suspect even Prof. Halperin would admit such. 
The death penalty offers greater protections for innocents in three ways than does a life sentence.
4. About 10% of all murders within the US might qualify for a death penalty eligible trial.  That would be about 70,000 murders since 1973.  We have sentenced about 8000 murderers to death since then, or 11% of those eligible. 
I doubt that there is any other crime which receives a higher percentage of maximum sentences, when mandatory sentences are not available. 
Based upon that, as well as pre trial, trial, appellate and clemency/commutation realities, the US death penalty is likely one of the least arbitrary and capricious criminal sanctions in the world.
5. It is important to note that most of the costs studies presented by anti death penalty folks are in error and which may also compare costs of the death penalty vs life without parole which are, often, not factually accurate or complete.
7) (NOTE: Sharp added the number 7) Prof. Halperin states that if Gary Ridgway and Zacarias Moussaoui  do not constitute the “worst of the worst,” murderers then who does?
Undoubtedly, they do. However the fact that they did not get the death penalty is not an argument against the death penalty. It is unjust that they didn’t receive it. Depriving other “worst of the worst” murderers from getting the death penalty, which is what Prof. Halperin wants, only creates more injustice. We do not improve justice by denying it.
The Ridgway case is commonly used by anti death penalty folks in just this same disingenuous manner that the professor uses it. Ridgway plea bargained his case to a life sentence, in exchange for telling authorities where his additional murder victims bodies could be found. The prosecutors sacrificed the justice of the death penalty to attain some additional relief for the murder victims survivors. It was a good call, I think.
What would have happened if Washington State didn’t have a death penalty in the Ridgway case? Either, those bodies never would have been recovered or Ridgway would be eligible for parole.
In other words, the reality is that the Ridgway case presents another argument in favor of the death penalty.
Let  us hope that institutions like SMU will recognize, once again, their responsibilities and duties to students and education, inclusive of open and balanced debate of important public policy issues.
Sincerely, Dudley Sharp
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.
2) presented by the SMU Embrey Human Rights Program, with the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility
All prospects of a negative outcome deter some. It is a truism. The death penalty, the most severe of criminal sanctions, is the least likely of all criminal sanctions to violate that truism.
1)  25 recent studies finding for deterrence, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation,
2)  “Deterrence and the Death Penalty: A Reply to Radelet and Lacock”
 4)  “Death Penalty, Deterrence & Murder Rates: Let’s be clear”
5)  This is out of date, but corrects an number of the misconceptions about deterrence.
6)  “The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents”
1)  “The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents”
The false innocence claims by anti death penalty activists are legendary. Some examples:
2)  “The Innocent Executed: Deception & Death Penalty Opponents”
3)  The 130 (now 139) death row “innocents” scam
4)  “The Exonerated: Are Any Actually Innocent?”
5)  Sister Helen Prejean & the death penalty: A Critical Review”
6)  “At the Death House Door” Can Rev. Carroll Pickett be trusted?”
7)  “Cameron Todd Willingham: Another Media Meltdown”,  A Collection of Articles
1)  See 4th comment down within comments:
The California Death Penalty Fraud:
Rebuttal to ACLU:
and  A Rebuttal to “Cut This: The Death Penalty”(1)
Death Penalty vs Life Costs in California
2)  “Death Penalty Cost Studies: Saving Costs over LWOP”
3)  “Duke (North Carolina) Death Penalty Cost Study: Let’s be honest”
(NOTE: A 2009 study, by one of these authors, found that by ending the death penalty NC might save $11 million , or about 1 penny ever third day/person.  I have not read it, yet. Based upon the prior study, reviewed here, the death penalty likely saves money.)

6 thoughts on “Rick Halperin & SMU: Dead Wrong on the death penalty

  • October 11, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Who cares if the sentence does anything to deter future crimes. Murderers are murderes. Protect the innocent by keeping the murderers from repeating. No chance of escape or parole. DEATH! They didn’t feel bad about death when they murdered someone. Why should we feel bad about their punishment?

  • October 13, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Dudley Sharp said:

    “Based upon that, as well as pre trial, trial, appellate and clemency/commutation realities, the US death penalty is likely one of the least arbitrary and capricious criminal sanctions in the world.”

    Nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of death row inmates never see the inside of an execution chamber in the United States, and many of those who do spend as many as ten, fifteen or even twenty years on death row.

    America’s death penalty is one of the most arbitrary, dysfunctional and inefficient mockeries of justice in the modern world.

    Dudley Sharp said:

    “However the fact that they (some murderers) did not get the death penalty is not an argument against the death penalty. It is unjust that they didn’t receive it. Depriving other “worst of the worst” murderers from getting the death penalty, which is what Prof. Halperin wants, only creates more injustice. We do not improve justice by denying it.”

    Lame. It is a paltry spectacle when a death penalty advocate sweeps his facile logic under the carpet by pretending that the administration of justice can be divorced from the equal administration of the law.

  • October 14, 2010 at 4:03 pm


    Thank you for your comments.

    I am precisely correct with regard to the specific meanings of arbitrary and caprisous, which the US death penalty is not.

    I think you points may stand up if you were to say that the death penalty is rare and, unfortunately, subject to the arbitrary and capricious actions of anti death penalty appellate judges.

    I agree with you that the length of time on death row is absurd. If judges cared about justice, as well as taxpayer funds, they should have death penalty appeals resolved within 6 years, as in Virginia.

    I agree the system should be improved but, again, that doesn’t make the system arbitray and capricious, which the death penalty is not.

    Kevin, I never stated “that the administration of justice can be divorced from the equal administration of the law.”

    You simply made it up.

    What I was stating was Rick’s error that denying justice is just. It is not.

    Your “equal administration of the law” comment is always an important issue. Nowhere in the world is their an equal administartion of justice. All cases are very different and all justice systems are different.

    However, we do not end all justice because we do not have equal justice. We must continuously try to improve the criminal justice sytems that we have, while administering justice along the way. It is the same with all human endeavors.

  • October 15, 2010 at 1:54 am

    Thank you very much for your reply, Mr. Sharp.

    Regarding your assertion that denying the death penalty is not just, it is incongruous with Christian principles to conclude that the death penalty is a form of justice in modern times, especially since it is applied with grotesque inconsistency and inequality.

    Although Jesus no doubt supported the death penalty for rape and murder, he also supported it for adultery, homosexuality and other offenses that were explicitly mentioned in Leviticus. But I doubt that Jesus would support the death penalty today for any of these crimes.

    As a Catholic, I cannot in good conscience support the death penalty for some murderers without also supporting it for women who have abortions, abortion doctors or any other persons who conspire to perform abortions.

    Abortion is the murder of an unborn child, and the number of murders (of born persons) that take place in the United States every year is dwarfed by the Holocaust of abortions that take place in the United States on an annual basis.

    But in accordance with the evolving standards of moral decency, Jesus would nevertheless not support the death penalty for abortionists or any other murderers today, regardless of how many innocent lives could be saved through deterrence. Otherwise, he would support making abortion a capital offense.

    Mr. Sharp, if you do not believe that abortion should be a death penalty offense, then what gives you the credibility to say that the death penalty is a form of justice? Is the murder of an unborn child not really murder in your book?

    God does not approve of society cherry-picking which mass murderers are more deserving of executions than others.

  • October 27, 2010 at 3:19 am

    First and simply, the death penalty is the law. If you don’t like it, change it, until then, follow it. If you can’t do the sentence, don’t do the crime.
    Interesting, I just finished sitting through a capital case this summer of my roommate, she was an SMU student. My son is attending SMU this year as a freshmen, I met Rick Halperin at orientation. I spoke with Rick about his views and found that he wasn’t interested in anyone’s point of view but his own. I also offered my services in speaking at his seminar…never heard from him. Why doesn’t he want the other side of the debate talked about…possibly because the students might not buy into his ideas??


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