Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 26, 2007

THE EXECUTION CAPITAL....I think it's safe to say the culture of life is not exactly thriving in the state of Texas.

This year's death penalty bombshells -- a de facto national moratorium, a state abolition and the smallest number of executions in more than a decade -- have masked what may be the most significant and lasting development. For the first time in the modern history of the death penalty, more than 60 percent of all American executions took place in Texas.

Over the past three decades, the proportion of executions nationwide performed in Texas has held relatively steady, averaging 37 percent. Only once before, in 1986, has the state accounted for even a slight majority of the executions, and that was in a year with 18 executions nationwide.

As it turns out, it's not that Texas has experienced a sudden boost in blood thirst; it's that most of the country has stemmed the execution tide. There were 42 executions over the last year, from a total of 10 states. Nine states carried about a combined total of 16 death sentences, while Texas executed 26 people. No other state killed more than three.

University of Houston law professor David Dow, who has represented death-row inmates, told the NYT we will likely reach a point in which practically all executions in the United States will take place in Texas.

"The reason that Texas will end up monopolizing executions," he said, "is because every other state will eliminate it de jure, as New Jersey did, or de facto, as other states have."

Yglesias added, "In theory, I think you could have a fair system that involved some number of executions. In practice, though, it barely seems doable and Harry Blackmun's conclusion that he had to simply refuse to 'tinker with the machinery of death' seems more and more sensible to me as time goes on."

I'm not sure about the possibility even existing of a fair, error-free system, but the latter point certainly rings true.

Steve Benen 5:29 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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Comments

I still think that prosecutorial misconduct in death penalty cases should be prosecuted as conspiracy to commit murder (or if discovered post-conviction, as murder).

Whether anyone would actually ever be charged in the backscratching world of criminal prosecution is a different question, but there's only so much you can do.

Posted by: Alan on December 26, 2007 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone know how Texas fares in murder rates.

Posted by: jharp on December 26, 2007 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

I dunno, it sure doesn't seem like Texas is killing less people than in years past...

And no, they don't have higher murder rates, nor do they apply the penalty at all equally to prosecutions or population or whatever stat you might try.

Posted by: Crissa on December 26, 2007 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

seems to me that the only fair way to apply the death penalty is to make it a mandatory, remove the potential for bias from the prosecution side. But really, Texas should join the rest of the world in the 21st century

Posted by: Northzax on December 26, 2007 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Alan. Prosecutors who send people to execution without a fair trial should be tried for murder.

Posted by: tomeck on December 26, 2007 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

[IP Check reveals a banned troll. Content deleted. --Mod]

Posted by: Stan Williams on December 26, 2007 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK

This presents an obvious ad absudem argument against Justice Scalia's view that since a majority of the states which allow executions (not of all states) also allow children (and the mentally underdeveloped) to be killed, there exists a consensus in the country for such a view. If Texas becomes the sole state which has capital punishment (for the sake of argument) then whatever 'values' they have will enjoy a similar 'consensus.'

Posted by: jhm on December 26, 2007 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

[IP Check reveals a banned troll. Content deleted. --Mod]

Posted by: Stan Williams on December 26, 2007 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

Hey if you google executions, there we are right next to Iran and China.

And here in good old Texas, we aint just a killen bad folk. We are going back to putting potheads in jail. DFHs are not welcome in Redneck central. You would think by now all the pretend cowboys around here would have evolved at least a touch of sophistication, but you would be wrong.

Texas Redneck motto-"Stupid and proud of it!"

Seriously, the dead enders are running amok here lately. I think they sense their time is drawing nigh, and they are determined to act as much like pissy 5 year olds as they can.

I would recommend staying as far away as you can from Waco/McKlennan Co. and Harris Co.

At night, you can just about hear the dueling banjos.

Posted by: SnarkyShark on December 26, 2007 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

Culture of life my ass. I still can't believe the media lets the fake Christians call themselves "Pro Life". They're as pro death as you can get. It's a joke.

Posted by: Riesz Fischer on December 26, 2007 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

In practice, though, it barely seems doable and Harry Blackmun's conclusion that he had to simply refuse to 'tinker with the machinery of death' seems more and more sensible to me as time goes on.

My dog, somebody pays Iglesiass for that crap? People figured out the death penalty doesn't work before I was born.

Posted by: F. Frederson on December 26, 2007 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

Is there any way to investigate and charge a state with human rights violations? If ever there was one it seems Texas's capital offense system is one ripe for prosecution.

Posted by: paulo on December 26, 2007 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

Simply put, the death penalty doesn't work. If it had any deterrent effect, one would expect that the crime late would have declined since its inception. As the crime rate has actually increased since the US Supreme Court legalized the death penalty (in Green v. Georgia) in 1976, the clear conclusion should either that the death penalty has no deterrent effect, or that it actually manages to increase the crime rate. Either way, as Justice Blackmun wrote, we should no longer tinker w/the machinery of death.

-Z

Posted by: Zorro on December 26, 2007 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

The death penalty has been shown to be no deterrent to crimes of passion and to the crimes of the truly disturbed (though for myself, I still think the Gacy's of this world should be put out of their - and our - misery) and I have grave, grave concerns about its application (it should be a rarely applied penalty and only applied when there is certainty of guilt) but has it truly been shown to have no deterrent to corporate malfeance? (of the type where you know the policies you push for will statistically lead to the death of thousands of innocents).

Posted by: snicker-snack on December 26, 2007 at 11:48 PM | PERMALINK

I don't care how many hot, stupid blond cheerleaders Texas has, at some point even they can't be enough of a mitigating factor. Texas, sucks.

Posted by: MNPundit on December 27, 2007 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

I see no moral problem with killing someone who has committed some heinous crime ("heinous" being defined by the time and place). There are only two problems with the death penalty:

--we sometimes execute innocent people

--it is applied different ways in different places, some of which constitute discrimination against brown people or poor people.

If we see somebody rush a speaker and stab him with a knife on live television, I would have no problem pushing the button, but I suspect that really clear cut cases are rare enough that we have to prohibit all executions to avoid killing the wrong people.

Posted by: anandine on December 27, 2007 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

[I'm in no mood for wingnut trolls today. --Mod]

Posted by: John on December 27, 2007 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

So, if the assassin of Benazir Bhutto were caught killing her on live television, you liberals would argue AGAINST the death penalty for him "because we sometimes execute innocent people"?! Yeah, that make perfect sense.

And so if some poor minority gets assigned a lawyer who sleeps through the trial and is convicted on circumstantial evidence provided by the now thoroughly compromised Harris Co. crime lab, your cool with that?

People like you advocate that the same system you say can't do national health care is still perfectly great for imposing the final irrevocable punishment?

Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

Posted by: SnarkyShark on December 27, 2007 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

So, if the assassin of Benazir Bhutto were caught killing her on live television, you liberals would argue AGAINST the death penalty for him "because we sometimes execute innocent people"?! Yeah, that make perfect sense.

Oh for fuck's sake. Who let this mouth-breathing moron in here?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 27, 2007 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

[IP Check reveals a banned troll. Centent deleted. --Mod]

Posted by: John on December 27, 2007 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

[IP Check reveals a banned troll. Centent deleted. --Mod]

Posted by: John on December 27, 2007 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Fuck off and die, Charlie.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 27, 2007 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

What a sad, pathetic, unloved fatass you must be, if the only joy in your miserable existence is to try to get a comment past the mods here.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 27, 2007 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

And Chuckles, banning your ass is not in the same league as assassinating a political leader. I realize cognitive dissonance is your middle name, but that's a stretch even for the deluded likes of you.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 27, 2007 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Did somebody say Charlie?

Posted by: that face, that face, that crapulous face on December 27, 2007 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

[IP Check reveals a banned troll. Content deleted. --Mod]

Posted by: John on December 27, 2007 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry Mods. I'll behave now....

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 27, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Tejas crime rates and state comparison murder rates
Texas is neither the best nor the worst, but there is no statistical evidence for saying the death penalty reduces the crimes to which it is applied.
[Tejas is the Spanish spelling of a Caddo word taysha, which means "friend" or "ally". In the 17th century the Spanish knew the westernmost Caddo peoples as "the great kingdom of Tejas" and the name lived on to become the name of the 28th state of the United States—Texas.]

Posted by: Mike on December 27, 2007 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Did somebody say Charlie?

What the deuce was that? I clicked on the link, thinking it would take me to yet another droning inanity from Steve Benen, and there it was...a picture of someone named "Charles Lawrence."

My sweet creator in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Mr. Lawrence, do you put Twinkies on sticks, deep fat fry them in pure lard, then dip them twice in caramel and chocolate and eat them by the gross? At one sitting?

You, sir, are a one cookie away from a diabetic coma. Goodness gracious. It's called salad. And it's sometimes free. Try one.

Posted by: Norman Rogers on December 27, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

The comment at 3:44 is why I shall forever be somewhat smitten with Norman. I simply can not help myself.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 27, 2007 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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