Scott Mooneyham: Death penalty capriciously meted out also unjust

By Scott Mooneyham

Syndicated columnist

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RALEIGH — Death penalty opponents in North Carolina, citing a national report, recently noted a continuing decline in executions nationwide.

The report, from the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, showed a 10-percent decline in executions in 2013.

North Carolina has been a part of that national trend, with no one executed here since 2006.

Opponents of the death penalty say the drop reflects declining public support for the death penalty.

In North Carolina, though, executions have stopped primarily due to court challenges, and not — as in some other states — by legislative decisions reflecting public sentiment to abolish the death penalty.

The Republican-controlled legislature and the administration of Gov. Pat McCrory, meanwhile, have been taking steps to resume executions in North Carolina.

Legislators largely repealed a law called the Racial Justice Act that allowed those sentenced to death to use statistics in racial bias claims to challenge their sentences.

They also established the state Department of Public Safety as the sole authority to determine drug protocols for lethal injection, an issue that has been the focus of legal challenges halting executions.

In October, department Secretary Frank Perry signed an order approving a new protocol, a move that could eventually clear the way for executions to resume.

Legislative leaders would like to see that happen.

Earlier this year, in response to the repeal of the Racial Justice Act, Senate leader Phil Berger remarked, “For nearly a decade, liberal death penalty opponents have orchestrated legal challenges to impede the law in North Carolina. Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Death penalty opponents don’t see the state taking a life as justice.

They see it as immoral, and see a justice system that allows it and has wrongly convicted people of murder as flawed.

Death penalty supporters argue that the death penalty deters murder and violent crime. In the most heinous cases, an argument is sometimes made that the perpetrator essentially forfeits his or her humanness.

The gulf between those two views is pretty wide.

But in some ways, it has been bridged by laws passed in this state a decade or so ago that provided prosecutors with more discretion in seeking the death penalty and stopped the execution of the mentally retarded.

Before the passage of those laws, the arbitrary nature of the death penalty in North Carolina was obvious to anyone who would open their eyes.

Sentencing a 19-year-old to death who had broken into a business and bludgeoned a security guard with a heavy object found in the business, while allowing someone who premeditated multiple murders to escape a death sentence, is all anyone needs to see to understand that capriciousness.

With the changes in place, the state has averaged less than three death sentences a year, compared to more than two dozen in the 1990s.

Whether or not executions in North Carolina ever resume, everyone should agree that we never need a return to a 1990s-style death penalty where blind justice became injustice.

Capitol Press Association

Comments

Why the Racial Justice Act was a SCAM

Written PRIOR to RJA passage This is exactly what happened. RJA obstructed justice. ======= 7/13/09 Why the Racial Justice Act is a SCAM – North Carolina Dudley Sharp Racial/ethnic bias should be taken seriously and by people of good will with honest intentions. The aim of the Racial Justice Act (RJA) is not racial justice. The RJA’s purpose is to increase cost and delay in death penalty cases, with a goal of assisting the end of the death penalty in North Carolina. The RJA bill: Proof of racial discrimination is established if "Death sentences were sought or imposed significantly "MORE FREQUENTLY" upon persons of one race than upon persons of one race than upon persons of another race." (1) Frequency is a measure of occurrence, not a measure of disproportionality, discrimination or measurable bias. For example, if 10 death sentences are sought and imposed for both black and white murderers, the frequency of death sentences for each race is equal. Equal frequency can be, totally, disproportionate. If whites had committed 100 death penalty eligible murders, yet only 10 death sentences were sought and imposed, and blacks had committed 12 "identical" (2) death penalty eligible murders, yet 10 death sentences were sought and imposed, there would be equal frequency, but striking disproportionality. For those truly looking for discrimination, it doesn’t matter how frequently, how often or how rarely the death penalty is sought or imposed for murderers of different races/ethnicities, it only matters if it is significantly, measurably disproportionately sought or imposed based upon discrimination. In any jurisdiction, if death sentences are sought or imposed 10 times for whites and 7 times for blacks or 10 times for blacks and 7 times for whites, the frequency is 30% less or 43% more and – voila – a claim of "more frequently" will be made and discrimination will be pronounced, even if death sentences are sought and imposed proportionately to any race/ethnicity involvement in capital murders and there is zero discrimination. The RJA, intentionally, allows cases to be challenged and overturned based upon a definition of "discrimination" which has nothing to do with discrimination. The RJA makes a mockery of justice and is a direct insult to those who truly wish to end racism and discrimination. The RJA is a big, unnecessary dishonest mess. The "Study": One often hears that racial bias was established by the study, "Race and The Death Penalty in North Carolina", by UNC-CH professors Boger and Unah (2). It wasn’t. First, the only alleged racial “disparity” (not bias) uncovered in the “study” is based upon: “. . . the “death odds multiplier” is 3.5, indicating that, on average, the odds of receiving a death sentence are increased by a factor of 3.5 when the murder victim is white.” (3). IF true, that 3.5 odds multiplier equals about a 2%-4% differential – completely meaningless, based upon actual cases sent to death row. NOTE: Many, in the media and elsewhere, misinterpreted the 3.5 as "times" (a 250% differential) as opposed to the actual "odds multiplier" (a 2-4% differential) . Did Boger/Unah ever correct that misunderstanding? The same problem exists with the McCleskey v Georgia case. (4) Secondly, the study looks at 1993-1997, or 16% of the 32 years of current death penalty laws and 99 out of the 383 death sentences, or 26%. In the unlikely case the study is sound, the results show no discrimination. In the context of the full 32 year database, this study is irrelevant in discussing the death penalty in North Carolina, today. Thirdly, academics, lawmakers, media (I hope) and others have been trying, without success, to get the database/methodology on the Boger/Unah study for nearly a decade. Is there a legitimate academic reason for withholding that information? Of course not. The RJA – Renders Justice an Ass. Don’t pass this bill. Footnotes: (1) HB461,15A-2011, (b), (1) & , mostly, (2), 6/30/09 http://ncleg.net/Sessions/2009/Bills/Senate/PDF/S461v5.pdf (2) Of course, there is no such thing as "identical" murders. The circumstances of each murder are all distinct, as are the murderer(s) and the victim(s). That is one of the obvious reasons why the RJA is so flawed. (3) "Race and The Death Penalty in North Carolina: An Empirical Analysis 1993-1997", page 4, 4/16/2001 http://www.common-sense.org/pdfs/NCDeathPenaltyReport2001.pdf (4) See "The Odds of Execution" within "How numbers are tricking you" http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/4834/barnett.htm and "The Math Behind Race, Crime and Sentencing Statistics" http://8.12.42.31/1998/jul/12/opinion/op-2965 see also RACE: A Death Penalty Primer – No Bias in Death Penalty Sentencing http://homicidesurvivors.com/2006/03/25/race-a-death-penalty-primer.aspx?ref=rss

The Death Penalty: Fair & Just

Scott: All your complaints about the death penalty are rebutted, here: The Death Penalty: Fair & Just http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/12/is-death-peanalty-fairjust.html

The Real Reasons Death Penalties/Executions Fell

The Real Reasons Death Penalties/Executions Fell Dudley Sharp SUMMARY Death penalties and/or executions plummeted from 1994-21013 because 1) capital murders plummeted, 2) court decisions or activism, further limited or delayed death penalty application or executions, 3) 6 states ended the death penalty and 4) DA's may have been more reluctant to seek death because of judicial obstructionism. Anti Death Penalty Nonsense Richard Dieter (Death Penalty Information Center - DPIC) states: "I think the (death penalty and execution) decline begins with the revelations about mistakes in capital cases — that innocent people could get the penalty and almost be executed has shocked the public to the point where death sentences are harder to obtain,". This is typical anti death penalty drivel, with no evidence to support it. REALITY A Nov. 2010 Angus Reid poll showed that a large majority, 81%, believes that innocents have been executed and, with that same group, responding to the "general" death penalty question, found 83% death penalty support and 13% opposition (1a). (there's a similar poll from Texas which I could not locate). That shows no evidence that the US population has turned away from executions based upon the, largely, misleading innocence claims by anti death penalty folks (2), Dieter, specifically. What chutzpah! Quite the opposite has occurred- a April, 2013 poll found the highest support, ever, for the death penalty - 86%, with the lowest rejection of it - 9% (1b). Possibly 25-43 actual innocents have been sentenced to death and released since 1976. Not the fraudulent 143, spouted by DPIC and other anti death penalty activists (2). That is a 99.6% accuracy rate in convictions, with the 0.4% innocent being released - an admirable record, which would fuel confidence in the death penalty. Prosecutors, as many others', are very aware of the DPIC deceptions and the reality (3). There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US. at least since the 1930s. The preponderance of the evidence is that the death penalty is a greater protector of innocents, than is LWOP (2, 4), which would result in even more support for the death penalty. Nationally, from 1993 to 2012, 1) Murders dropped by 40% (5). Capital murders, the only ones eligible for the death penalty, likely, dropped in the 60-70% range (5), as capital murders are, most often, those combined with rape, robbery, or other crimes, which have dropped substantially, as well, explaining most of the drop. (46% drop in robbery, 20% rape, 54% carjacking. police murders were at their lowest level in 53 years, in 2012 with 120, the highest was 240 in 2001, showing a 50% drop 2001-2012) (5). Other reasons are: 2) 5 states, with Democratic Governors and Democratic majority legislators, abolished the death penalty and 3) a number of Supreme Court cases have restricted or delayed, even more, the application of the death penalty and executions, as well as have courts at lower levels (6). with both since 1994 and both in conflict with the majority will of the people (1b). (Two of those states, Illinois and New Jersey, got the vote in during a lame duck session. A state appellate court vacated New York's death penalty statute). 4) DA's are aware that some judges are, simply, obstructionists to the law (6), and those DA's may be reluctant to seek it, as in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New Jersey, etc. In California, reform efforts are underway (6). (Ct & NJ repealed the death penalty). Those four, likely, account for the overwhelming majority of the drop in death sentences. 5) The decline in executions is, solely, the product of the case managers - the judges (6). Anti death penalty judicial activism, from, 1993 to 2011, resulted in the time between sentencing and execution expanding, dramatically, from 113 months to 198 months, respectively, or an additional delay of 7 years, 1 month (6b). That, alone, could explain the reduction in executions. In 1996, Congress pass the Anti Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, part of which was to streamline appeals in death penalty cases. Evidently, the judges didn't like it. Judges are twice as likely to overturn death sentences as they are those convictions, a likely indicator of anti death penalty bias (6c). Classic example: California California judges do all they can to drag out these cases, taking a reported 5 years just to assign attorneys to take these cases, pre trial, and then another 5 years to hear the first appeals, after sentnecing! That willful mismanagement has caused a terrible backlog, is a huge insult to murder victim survivors, as to justice, and has created huge burden on taxpayers, all because of this nest of boondoggles, aka judges. For the last 6 years, these judges have prevented executions based upon California's lethal injection protocol, which mimics the successful use of intravenous medical procedures in countless millions of cases, worldwide, over decades. The lethal overdose of the drugs used in California's protocol have well known, never changing pharmacological properties. Shocking that these judges haven't stopped all medical intravenous procedures in California, based upon them being cruel and unusual. The cruel and unusual, here, is the judges. Are California judges incompetent? No. They are just holding the law and the will of the people in contempt - they are dictators in robes. FOOTNOTES 1) a US Death Penalty Support at 80% (now 86%): World Support Remains High 95% of Murder Victim's Family Members Support Death Penalty http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2012/04/us-death-penalty-support-at-80-world.html b) 86% Death Penalty Support: Highest Ever - April 2013 http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/11/86-death-penalty-support-highest-ever.html 2) The Innocent Frauds: Standard Anti Death Penalty Strategy and THE DEATH PENALTY: SAVING MORE INNOCENT LIVES http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-innocent-frauds-standard-anti-death.html 3) The Myth Of Innocence, Josh Marquis, published in the Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology - March 31, 2005, Northwestern University School of Law, Chicago, Illinois, http://coastda.blogspot.com/2005/03/myth-of-innocence.html 4) OF COURSE THE DEATH PENALTY DETERS: A review of the debate http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/03/of-course-death-penalty-deters.html 5) I used national data instead of only states with the death penalty, which should be the subject data source, inclusive not just of crime rates, but also judicial decisions within each state, as well as SCOTUS, affecting all death penalty states, as with cases since 1993, Schlup, Ring, Atkins, Tennard, Roper, Hill, House, Medellin, Baze, Kennedy, Harbison and more). 6) a) The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is infamous for its anti death penalty activism; Pennsylvania courts will only allow executions if an inmate waives appeals; New Jersey judges never allowed an execution; a federal judge in Connecticut threatened to disbar an attorney if he did not oppose his clients desires to waive appeals. Serial rapist/murderer Michael Ross, eventually, became the one person executed in Connecticut. Judges Responsible for Grossly Uneven Executions http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/11/judges-responsible-for-grossly-uneven.html b) Between 1993 and 2011, the time from sentencing to execution increased by 85 months, or more than 7 years, from 9.4 years to 16.5 years, a possible indicator of judicial activism against the death penalty. (Table 10, Average time between sentencing and execution, 1977–2011, page 14, Capital Punishment, 2011 - Statistical Tables, Tracy L. Snell, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment Series, July 16, 2013 NCJ 242185) Congress passed the Anti Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act in 1996, partially, to speed up death penalty appeals. Things got worse. c) Death sentences are twice as likely to be overturned on appeal (1674, 20%) , as are those convictions (863, 10%) , again, a possible indicator of judicial bias against the death penalty.(Table 16, Prisoners sentenced to death and the outcome of sentence, by year of sentencing, 1973-2011, Capital Punishment, 2011 - Statistical Tables, Tracy L. Snell, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital punishment Series, July 16, 2013 NCJ 242185)

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