Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Progress on the Death Penalty

Columnist Steve Chapman points out a number of indicators which show that the death penalty is on the wane in the U.S. Here are these indicators:

1. In the recent Connecticut governor's race, an opponent of the death penalty beat a proponent, even though a trial for a horrific crime was going on in the state during the campaign.

2. Executions are only a third of what they were at their 1996 peak.

3. Death sentences in Texas are down by 80%.

4. 138 death row inmates have now been exonerated.

5. Maryland has spent $186 million on capital cases over the past 30 years, a total of $37 million per execution.

6. A 2005 study pointed out that "New Jersey taxpayers over the last 23 years have paid more than a quarter billion dollars on a capital punishment system that has executed no one."

Death penalty proponents sometimes argue that no innocent person has been executed that we know of. However, that is no longer true because the conviction of the man in Texas who was executed for setting a house fire which killed his family has now been totally discredited. A long article in The New Yorker some months back recounts this sordid tale, which involved a Texas arson investigator who reached the wrong conclusion from the evidence. With the execution imminent, national experts were consulted who said unequivocally that the conclusion presented at the trial by this so-called "expert" was wrong, yet the Texas governor refused to consider this new evidence and stay the execution. Typical Texas "justice".