The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below
Often, the death penalty dialogue gravitates to the subject of innocents at risk of execution. Seldom is a more common problem reviewed. That is, how innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.


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?

Enhanced Due Process

No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.
Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed.
That is. logically, conclusive.
Enhanced Incapacitation

To state the blatantly clear, living murderers, in prison, after release or escape,  are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers.
Although an obvious truism, it is surprising how often  folks overlook the enhanced incapacitation benefits of the death penalty over incarceration.
Enhanced Deterrence

16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses, find for death penalty deterrence.
A surprise? No.
Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
Some believe that all studies with contrary findings negate those 16 studies. They don’t. Studies which don’t find for deterrence don’t say no one is deterred, but that they couldn’t measure those deterred.
What prospect of a negative outcome/consequence doesn’t deter some? There isn’t one.  Of course the death penalty deters. The only remaining dispute, never to be settled, is “how much does it deter?”

Enhanced Fear

Some death penalty opponents argue against death penalty deterrence, stating that it’s a harsher penalty to be locked up without any possibility of getting out.
Reality paints a very different picture.
What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
What percentage of convicted capital murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment.
This is not, even remotely, in dispute.

What of that more rational group, the potential murderers who choose not to murder, is it likely that they, like most of us, fear death more than life?
Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
The False Promise


Part of the anti death penalty deception is that a life sentence, with no possibility of release, is a superior alternative to the death penalty. It’s a lie. History tells us that lifers have many ways to get out: Pardon, commutation, escape, clerical error, change in the law, etc. There are few absolutes with sentencing. But, here are two: the legislature can lessen the sentences of current inmates, retroactively, and the executive branch can lessen any individual sentence, at any time. This has been, actively, pursued, for a number of years, in many states, because of the high cost of life sentences and/or geriatric care, found to be $60,000-$90,000 per year per inmate.
Innocents released from death row: Some reality


Furthermore, possibly we have sentenced 25 actually innocent people to death since 1973, or 0.3% of those so sentenced. Those have all been released upon post conviction review. The anti death penalty claims, that the numbers are significantly higher, are a fraud, easily discoverable by fact checking.
The innocents deception of death penalty opponents has been getting exposure for many years. Even the behemoth of anti death penalty newspapers, The New York Times,  has recognized that deception.
“To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row . . . “(1) This when death penalty opponents were claiming the release of 119 “innocents” from death row. Death penalty opponents never required actual innocence in order for cases to be added to their “exonerated” or “innocents” list. They simply invented their own definitions for exonerated and innocent and deceptively shoe horned large numbers of inmates into those definitions – something easily discovered with fact checking.
There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.
If we accept that the best predictor of future performance is past performance, we can, reasonably, conclude that the DNA cases will be excluded prior to trial, and that for the next 8000 death sentences, that we will experience a 99.8% accuracy rate in actual guilt convictions. This improved accuracy rate does not include the many additional safeguards that have been added to the system, over and above DNA testing.


In choosing to end the death penalty, or in choosing not implement it, some have chosen to spare murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives.

Full report -All Innocence Issues: The Death Penalty, upon request.
Full report – The Death Penalty as a Deterrent, upon request
(1) The Death of Innocents: A Reasonable Doubt,
New York Times Book Review, p 29, 1/23/05, Adam Liptak,
national legal correspondent for The NY Times


NOTE: There are variables in the findings. Liptak found a 70% error, I found an 83% error in anti death penalty claims
copyright 2007-2009, Dudley Sharp
Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail 713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS, VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O’Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
Pro death penalty sites  


5 thoughts on “The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents

  • April 27, 2011 at 2:05 pm

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  • April 28, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Read, of course, far from my topic. But still, we can cooperate with you. How you think about asset management?

  • June 10, 2011 at 11:59 am

    This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing websites that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free.

  • August 17, 2011 at 1:56 am

    Some thoughts on the above…

    1) ‘Enhanced Due Process’
    Not even the most extensive due process can guard against intrinsic problems within the criminal justice system, i.e.: bad representation, unreliable witnesses, unscientific expert testimony, contaminated evidence, human/procedural errors etc.
    Not to mention ingrained opposition over re-opening ‘closed’ cases, and so on.

    2) ‘Enhanced Incapacitation’
    … and “dead men tell no tales.”

    The state does not have the power to preemptively execute inmates because they ‘might’ be a danger in the future. And what about the harm rendered by depriving an innocent of his most fundamental constitutional right?

    3) ‘Enhanced Deterrence’
    Sure, except if it’s a crime of passion, or if I’m listening to the voices in my head, or in any other (numerous) number of circumstances. In those cases, deterrence proves about as useful as a bottom-less bucket.

    4) ‘Enhanced Fear’
    Same as above, if you’re brazen enough to commit a crime with forethought, then you’re brazen enough to face the law, or at least to face the consequences of your crime.

    5) ‘False Promise’
    The financial argument derails your entire point. We should kill our inmates because it’s cheaper?
    The state has an obligation to at least attempt to rehabilitate its inmates, not slaughter them to save costs. Considering we incarcerate more of our population than most any other (civilized) nation, it’s a rather ridiculous point to begin with.

    6) ‘Innocents’
    No proof, yes, but considerable and substantial evidence to suggest it has occurred in at least a few cases.
    Besides, innocence does not have to be proven, only reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused. If a man is to be executed, and reasonable doubt as to his guilt is introduced, the execution cannot proceed. If it does, the state has committed an illegal act.

    If there is provable evidence which clearly sheds reasonable doubt upon the guilt of an executed inmate, then for all intents and purposes, the state is guilty of depriving an innocent of his/her life.

    No one is arguing that rapists, murderers, and the like should be coddled and spoon-fed. But the state’s zeal in ridding itself of crime and punishing criminals, cannot escape the reality that not all crime can be stopped, nor all criminals caught/punished/rehabilitated to the satisfaction of all involved.

    What if you were one of the %0.2 of innocent persons on death row for a crime you didn’t commit? I’m only using your statistics for DNA false-positives, you don’t even mention convictions based solely on, for instance, witness testimony, which has been consistently proven to be unreliable. And many violent crimes don’t even leave usable trace (DNA) evidence. The death of even one wrongly-convicted individual should be intolerable to a just and ethical society.

    If the innocent sits in a cell, all that is required is for a key to turn.

    But if the innocent sits in a grave, what recourse, what justice is there for anyone?

  • August 21, 2011 at 4:49 pm


    You seem to have intentionally misunderstood my clear meaning.

    1) Enhanced due process doesn’t mean perfect due process. It means that the death penalty will and does protect actually innocent defendants and the actually innocent convicted to a higher degree than all other sanctions, meaning actual innocents are more likely to die as innocents in prison than it is that an innocent will be executed.

    You didn’t contradict that, because you couldn’t. So you changed the topic.

    2) ‘Enhanced Incapacitation’ has nothing to do with preemptively executing known murderers because they may harm and murder, again, as we all know they do. It only has to do with the truism that living murderers do harm and murder, again, and that executed murderers do not.

    The state does have the right to asses if the murderer is a future danger and to use that as an additional aggravating factor in deciding if the death penalty is a more justified sanction than a life sentence. SCOTUS has upheld that right, which is a very different thing than enhanced incapacitation.

    3) ‘Enhanced Deterrence’ means it is a greater deterrent than lesser sanctions, which it is. It has nothing to do with those circumstances whereby people have actually committed murder – they were not deterred. At least one deterrence study has found that even potential murders of passion can be deterred. Not surprising, as we all know that many passions can be suppressed by a variety of factors.

    No one denies that many are not deterred. That was, obviously, not the point.

    4) ‘Enhanced Fear’ is, again, speaking only about those that do not commit crimes because of enhanced fear. Some are deterred, some are not.

    5) ‘False Promise’ – You speculate, without reason. I never said anyone should be executed because it’s cheaper. Murderers should be executed based upon their crimes. It just so happens it also saves lives and it can save money if managed properly. Both are benefits.

    6) ‘Innocents’ – Few would say no innocents have been executed. I am simply making the obvious point that innocents are much more at risk when we allow murderers to live.

    There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since the 1930’s, yet we have about 28,000 additional innocents that have been murdered by repeat murderers that we have allowed to murder, again, just since 1973.

    Next time, address what I say, as opposed to making up what you will.


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