It is difficult to say if Prof . Garland is just sloppy or if, like many in academia, he is happy to peddle bias in service of a goal, here, an end to execution.
(“Five myths about the death penalty”, By David Garland, July 18, 2010, www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/16/AR2010071602717.html)
Lets’ look at Garland’s myths:
1) Garland fails to mention that it is the judges that make the imposition of the death penalty all but impossible in some jurisdictions. Dictatorial judges in New Jersey never allowed an execution. There, the death penalty was repealed. Pennsylvania judges never allow executions other than those whereby the inmates waive appeals. If you appeal a death sentence in Pa, you have a life sentence, even if your death sentence is not overturned. Similar abusive judicial behavior is legendary in California.
The death penalty in Virginia? Inmates are executed in 5-7 years after sentencing, 65% of those sentenced to death have been executed and only 15% of death row cases are overturned on appeal. The national averages for those are 11 years, 13% and 37%, respectively.
The difference is in the judges.
Victim survivors in death penalty cases are knowingly and unnecessarily tortured by such irresponsible and callous judges, as in NJ, Pa and Ca and others, nationwide.
Garland gives the false hope that by replacing the death penalty with a life sentence that we can avoid these problems. All states are, now, looking at ways to release lifers, early, for overcrowding and cost issues.
Instead of the abusive performance of judges in so many death penalty jurisdictions, cases, abuse which should be stopped, those murder victim survivors would then be served a recurring theme of releasing those lifer murderers of their loved ones.
The same legal challenges that have been used for years to restrict death penalty applications, are now being repeated in challenging life sentences. Pro death penalty opponents have been stating that pending course for years and it is now in full swing. Murderers serving life sentences can appeal for life.
2 and 3. Yes, fortunately, American democracy is stronger. Even in Europe, the collection of countries whose governments are most opposed to the death penalty, the majority of their populations do support the death penalty for some crimes (1). Those governments could care less.
It may be the case that a majority of citizens in every country support executions for some crimes, based upon the proposition that such sanction is a morally just and proportionate sanction for the crime(s) committed, the foundation of support for all criminal sanctions.
The insult here is that Garland believes that governments ban the death penalty because they know better, that they are wiser than those whom they govern, similar in fashion to the dictatorial judges who confound the law, as reviewed. In fact, it is simply a product of Garland’s bias, with no evidence to support it and a false sense of parental superiority guiding it.
4. Predictably, Garland says “it stretches credulity to think that the death penalty, as administered in the United States today, can be an effective means for deterring murder”.
Note, that Garland’s hedge is “effective”, which he can define in any manner he wishes.
Of course the death penalty deters. All prospects of any negative outcome deter some. There is no exception.
Let’s say that only 0.5% of murderers are deterred every year because of deterrence. It is a very small percentage of murders deterred, but huge in terms of lives saved, about 90 innocents saved per year, on average, since 1977, noting an 18,000 murders/yr. average during that time.
Is that effective, enough, for Garland? Probably not. For many against the death penalty, it wouldn’t matter if a thousand lives were spared per execution because of deterrence, they would still seek its end.
Of the recent (since 2000) 25 studies finding for deterrence, there is a range of deterrence detected, between 3 and 28 lives spared per execution (2), with an average of about 30 executions per year, since 1977, which equates to about 90-900 innocents spared per year because of deterrence.
Garland states that “66 percent have their death sentences overturned on appeal or post-conviction review. He needs to fact check. It is 37%. (3)
Garland states that “a smaller number — 139 — have been exonerated in the past 30 years”. Fact checking is definitely not Garland’s thing. The 139 exonerated is well known fraud and easily uncovered by anyone who cared to fact check. (4)
5. Of course the death penalty works. Everyone who has been executed has remained dead.
Garland states: “An Indiana study last month showed that capital sentences cost 10 times more than life in prison without parole.”
Not surprisingly, Garland didn’t fact check that story either. It is about 12% more expensive not the 1000% (10 times) that Garland found. (5)
Garland closes: “Getting past the myths and looking at how the death penalty actually operates is one place to start. “
How would he know?
1) “Death Penalty Support Remains Very High: USA & The World”
2) 25 recent studies finding for deterrence, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation
3) “A Broken Study: A Review of ‘A Broken System’ “
4) “The 130 (now 139) death row ‘innocents’ scam”
5) Garland was referencing a review that didn’t look at all the costs and stated that it didn’t include all the costs. With one exception, this one appears to.
See Bachground Information, page 2, Fiscal Impact Statement, Legislative Services Agency,
Costs per case
$758, 243 for death penalty
$657, 028 for LWOP
However, this excludes the credit of savings for plea bargain to LWOP, which I suspect saves at least $20, 000 per case, solely attributed to having the death penalty.
That would bring the differential down to about $80,000 – the death penalty and LWOP cost amounts are already present valued. or
$738, ooo for death penalty (inclusive of LWOP plea credit cost savings, solely attributable to having the death penalty)
$657, 000 for LWOP
The death penalty is 12% more than LWOP.
David Garland is a professor of law and sociology at New York University. His book “Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition” is forthcoming this fall.