Dudley Sharp, contact info below
Are death penalty opponents really concerned about innocents at risk? Of course.
However, as innocents are more at risk without the death penalty, it is appropriate to challenge their understanding of that easily accessible fact.
1) There is no known actual innocent executed in the US, at least since the 1930’s. Possibly, 0.4% of all those sentenced to death since 1973 may have been actually innocent. All were released. An incredible record of accuracy – 99.6% accuracy in proper actual guilt convictions, with the 0.4% released (1).
2) Anti death penalty folks say taking the death penalty away eliminates actual innocents dying prior to their exoneration.
Nonsense. While we have executed about 1250 murderers in the US (1973-2012) about 5,000 inmates per year die while in custody (2), or about 200,000 total, during that time (2). We cannot bring back any of those that may have been innocent, either.
It is more likely that an actual innocent will die in custody than it is that an actual innocent will be executed.
3) Murderers that we have allowed to murder again, recidivist murderers, MIGHT number around 28,000 since 1973 , based upon existing studies (3).
However, I think it likely that the numbers are closer to 14,000, based upon my review in footnote 3.
4) 28 studies, beginning in 2000, find for a deterrent effect, ranging from 1-28 innocent lives spared per execution, or totals from 1,254 – 35,112 innocent lives saved (4).
Based upon an estimated 700,000 murders in the US (1973-2011), that represents a range from 0.18% to 5% of potential murderers who were deterred from committing murder – a huge savings in innocent lives spared, but, statistically, a very small reduction in murder rates.
5) The death penalty spares more innocent lives than does a life sentence, in two additional ways, as well: Enhanced due process and enhanced incapacitation. No one questions that the death penalty has greater due process protections than a life sentence, thereby the death penalty protects actual innocents to a higher degree than any lesser sanction. Neither does anyone question that living murderers harm and murder, again and that executed ones do not.
6) REALITY: ARE DEATH PENALTY OPPONENTS REALLY CONCERNED ABOUT INNOCENT LIVES AT RISK?
Of course, but . . .
The reality is that we can spare murderers lives and thus sacrifice more innocents or we can spare more innocent lives by executing more murderers.
Look at Ernest van den Haag’s interview of well known anti death penalty activists.
He asked them, if it was proven that 100 innocent lives were spared per execution, via deterrence, would you still oppose the death penalty. All said yes. (4)
Based upon our 1250 executions (1973-2012), those anti death penalty folks would prefer sparing the lives of 1250 murderers over saving the lives of 125,000 innocents. Think about that
Well known anti death penalty scholars “(Charles) Black and (Hugo Adam ) Bedau said they would favor abolishing the death penalty even if they knew that doing so would increase the homicide rate by 1,000 percent.” (4).
For them, 6.3 million additional murders of innocent people (from 1973-2011) is preferable over executing 1250 known murderers. Astounding.
For some very well known leaders of the anti death penalty movement, their motivation is not protecting innocents, but protecting the lives of all murderers, no matter the cost in innocent lives.
That’s their moral choice. They, and all death penalty opponents, need to face that.
NOTE: I am making two points with this information. If anti death penalty folks were concerned about innocents, their efforts would be to fix the huge problems in the criminal justice system which really sacrifice innocents lives, as opposed to trying to end the death penalty, a penalty which assists in sparing additional innocent lives.
I think many of those opposed to capital punishment would change their minds if they knew that sparing murderers sacrificed more innocent lives.
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.
c. “The innocence tactic: Unreliable studies and disinformation”, reports By United States Congress, Senate, 107th Congress, 2d Session, Calender no 731, Report 107-315. The Innocence Protection Act of 2002, (iv) The innocence tactic: Unreliable studies and disinformation, p 65-69, http://alturl.com/6j7oc
See both studies, of 1983 and 1994 data
6.6% recidivism rate, 1989 study of 1983 data
1.2% recidivism rate, 2002 study of 1994 data
The combined recidivism rate for the two studies is 3.9%. These rates are based upon re-arrest, not re-conviction.
I suspect the real recidivism rate, looking at 1973-2011, will be closer to half that, at 2%.
Why the recidivism rates should be higher: Both of these studies only looked at recidivism for 3 years after release. We are concerned with recidivism for 38 years and less, years 1973-2011, as the modern era of new death penalty statutes began in 1973. Recidivism rates will be higher if released prisoners were tracked 4 years and beyond, as opposed to only 3 years. In addition, rates from 1973-1983, will likely be about the same as the 6.6%, if not higher, because we had barely started the period of longer sentences and increased incarcerations rates.
Why the recidivism rates should be lower: The dramatic reduction in recidivism between the two studies reflects a dramatic increase in sentencing terms and incarceration rates, which amounted to lower rates of early release and thus recidivism.
EXACT NUMBERS: Based upon convictions, 8.4% of those on death row had murdered, at least one person, prior to committing additional murder or murders which put them on death row — an estimated 600-1000 additional innocents murdered, by those who had murdered before, just for that small set that have made it to death row. ( “Table 8. Criminal history profile of prisoners under sentence of death by race and Hispanic origin, 2005”, p 6, Capital Punishment, 2005, Bureau of Justice Statistics,
http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/cp05.pdf ) 2005 last year of this analysis.