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« President Bush in Albania | Main | Dennis Miller says Harry Reid has the charisma of ‘living shade’ »

June 11, 2007


Christopher Taylor

I am quite confident that the fear of being put to death for doing something is very likely to deter at least some people. Don't you?

It sure deters the tar out of the guy that's put to death.


I just skimmed it becase I don't really care either way anymore :). But I got the impression that he was saying murder rates went up more (or down slower), in states that executed less men than in previous years. May have read it wrong though.

But Frank, if it were true, wouldn't it put your principal argument to rest? It can't be considered all that barbaric if it saves 5 innocent lives every time you do it to one guilty one.

Frank Warner

Setting a man on fire for rape might reduce the rape rate. I still wouldn't approve that punishment either.

Beyond the barbarity of capital punishment is its requirement that guilt be 100 percent certain. There are no do-overs. And no case is 100 percent air tight.

Killing an innocent man for someone's death also might reduce the murder rate. Would you then recommend it? Of course not.

Christopher Taylor

The "100% requirement" argument holds some emotional weight but not much rational. Think about it, there's no way to prove something beyond any possible doubt, no matter what. Ever. So insisting you need that for any situation, ever is not being cautious, it's being irrational.

What we should look for is the best possible case. And given the absurd number of retrials, appeals, stays of execution, delays, and evidence reexamination, it is simply ridiculous to think that innocent people are being put to death.

In any case, what is the difference between life in prison and the death penalty for this argument? Putting someone in prison forever, til they die, is little difference than putting them in prison til they die at the hands of the state in a few years - it's just the former requires far less evidence, time, and effort, but far more expense and ultimately is far less a deterrence.

If your concern is for the innocent, then your primary interest should be in preventing crime, not protecting criminals.

And in the end, justice is about doing what is right, even if we find it personally distasteful.

jj mollo

Skeptical Inquirer for this month has an article about the questionable scientific merit of fingerprint technology! Add that to the persistent questions about witness identification and deceptive police testimony, and it's hard to be sure about any case. Exonerations based on DNA evidence are proof, IMO, that the justice system fails a lot more often than any of us would really be comfortable with.

I have a recent post responding more specifically to your question about whether the study is rigged.


So torturing and killing someone is wrong, but God forbid we put them to sleep peacefully (lethal injection) or gas them, or heaven forbid electrocute them. Frank, don't call the death penalty barbaric and inhumane given what some of these scumbags have done to their victims. Frankly, I think we should kill them the way they killed their victims using other death row inmates to do the killing. Lethal injection is the most humane way we can kill these people, and they don't even deserve that. All killers should die a slow, painful death, and maybe that would deter people more.

Frank Warner

JJ, just took a quick look at your post at

I don't have time at this moment to study it, but I will. The first thing that strikes me is the time frame, 1977-1997.

Certainly, the researchers are going to find that, in the early part of the study, when the death penalty was on hold, the murder rate went up. That was the worst murder rate we ever had. But are they considering that, at exactly that time, we also had the worst U.S. economy since the Depression?

They'll find that, as the economy improved, the murder rate went down and, coincidentally (or not), more executions were carried out. I don't know how a study could control for those economic factors, but I hope the researchers figured out how.

Christopher Taylor

Nobody has gone to the chair over a fingerprint. It takes a LOT to put someone to death in this country, lots of corroborating evidence, testimony, and proof.


Don't forget all the bleeding heart lawyers (ACLU) trying to overturn every death penalty case because it's "inhumane" yet torturing and killing a 4 year old is ok. Maybe economic factors do contribute to the increase in murders, but honestly, if someone is going to kill someone, don't you think there's a point where they stop and think "If I do this, I'll get the chair"? That's pre-meditation, and the only way you can be put to death is by planning it out, and I guarantee that thought goes through their mind yet they think they can get away with it. A lot of murders due to economic issues are probably spur of the moment, 2nd degree or lesser felony type killings. What you have to look at is how many pre-meditated, first degree murders have occured, maybe the study did, but that is the true measure.

I would bet one of Frank's $5 bills that the murder rate of death penalty type of killings has decreased in states with the death penalty.

jj mollo

Charles Chatman was exonerated after 27 years. Of course, that was Texas. Couldn't happen anywhere else.

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