VA Imposes Moratorium on Executions, MO Considers One

There's progress on the death penalty front to report:

VA Governor Tim Kaine has imposed a moratorium on executions until the Supreme Court decides Baze v. Rees on whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment.

Kaine said about 30 executions nationwide have been stayed since September, either by the Supreme Court, lower courts or governors.

In Missouri legislators are considering a bill that would impose a moratorium on executions until 2011 so that death sentences in the state can be reviewed.

Besides the freeze, the measure also would create a 10-person commission to study a random sample of death penalty cases to judge the fairness of the process. The panel could look at topics such as possible racial disparities and the quality of evidence used to convict the person.


The bill, House Bill 1870, has 58 sponsors, including 13 Republicans. The legislature's website is here. More news on Tuesday's hearing is here.

And in North Carolina, death row inmate Glenn Chapman has been freed from death row after 14 years.

Last November, Superior Court Judge Robert C. Ervin found that an investigator withheld evidence and lied in court, and that Chapman was inadequately defended by his court-appointed attorneys.

Ervin sent the case back for another trial, but Gaither, in dismissing the charges, said there was not enough evidence for a retrial.Chapman is the seventh innocent death row prisoner in North Carolina to be released, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington.

There's more news still. The Innocence Project in New York, headed by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, have just created a program , Young, Innocent and Wrongly Convicted.

Over and over, young lives have been devastated by wrongful convictions. More than one-third of the 215 people exonerated by DNA evidence were between the ages of 14 and 22 when they were arrested. The Innocence Project just launched a national youth campaign, “947 Years: In Their Prime. In Prison. Innocent.” Watch our new two-minute video and check out the whole site. It's fascinating and has sections devoted to everything a lawyer needs to to be able to defend these tough cases.

Last but not least, in California, 2 new death penalty studies have been released and are accessible here.

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    Great Post (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by DionysianLogic on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 05:29:34 AM EST
         Definitely something that needs to be talked about more (although your innocence project video link above says 404 not found).  I was in Europe recently, and saw a BBC special on "humane death penalty" in which the documentarian found that asphyxiation through a hypo-baric chamber at least was pain-free.  He confronted an American pro-death penalty activist with this who responded with something along the lines of "That's the worst way to execute someone.  They should suffer and I want to see it."  Personally, disgusted.  Especially when think about those that the innocence project has shown to be wrongfully convicted.


    thaks, links to Innocence Project (none / 0) (#16)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 10:30:21 AM EST
    fixed now.

    Do you see this as a trend (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Lil on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 06:45:31 AM EST
    that will be permanent? As for the above post, the thought that an innocent person may executed trumps any possible positive benefit, IMO.

    Yes, I agree, even if the research was accurate (none / 0) (#6)
    by barryluda on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 06:57:04 AM EST
    Why do you call this progress? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Saul Goode on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 05:35:07 AM EST
    This recent study shows that each execution prevents 18 additional murders.

    The conclusion from the study:

    [If these] findings are ultimately shown to be right, capital punishment as a strong claim to being not merely morally permissible, but morally obligatory, above all from the standpoint of those who wish to protect life

    working paper (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by bjorn on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 09:39:10 AM EST
    is not a publication. This has not undergone any peer review process.  I don't think it would be considered reliable and valid research.

    There are many critiques of this bogus study (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by fuzzyone on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 12:33:04 PM EST
    collected here

    The deterrence studies are crap for a lot of reasons, including that there is no way to isolate all the factors that cause crime and that many of them are simply poorly done partisan hack jobs.  Theories about why murder rates have declined in recent years include better trauma care and the removal of lead from gasoline. Unfortunately I don't have time to go through all the problems but if you take a look its all laid out.

    One other thing.  If you believe this study then to get down to zero murders in the US all you have to do is execute about 940 people this year.  Does anyone actually believe that?


    Interesting information (none / 0) (#3)
    by DionysianLogic on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 06:35:25 AM EST
         Reading over the studies now (what you cited didn't do the analysis itself, it was an opinion citing other research).  Definately making me re-evaluate my position, and I will have to research more.  Dezhbaksh's paper though (which is cited pretty heavily) seems to be flawed in that it uses the before and after murder rates from 1 to 3 years afterwards, but it does not A) talk about the rate of change in the murder rate before switching to having or not having a death penalty, or B) it seems to just focus on that 3 year time-frame at a time and not a longer one at all (I'm not saying a longer time-frame would go either way, but should be looked into) and C) that each execution prevents 18 murders I can't find within that paper (since that Dezhbakhsh paper is the one cited by your citation for that statistic).  I could find what looked like it saying that there were 18 murders prevented for every state that chose to re-instate the death penalty.

         Anyways, I will have to look more into it when have time.  Interesting paper though, and very interesting research it cites.  I will have to look into the expert responses to those paper's publications.  Thanks for the resource.



    Thanks for the link but did you read the study? (none / 0) (#5)
    by barryluda on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 06:55:52 AM EST
    Or even just read the comments on the short and inaccurate little conclusion?

    The entire work depends on research that has been debunked.


    The thesis is flawed because it presumes only a two-option universe: an execution that saves 18 "statistical lives" or a life sentence that "costs" 18 "statistical lives." Even if the data were accurate (which it isn't) that's still not a real-world premise. The social options are not limited to those two.

    You can have capital punishment... (none / 0) (#10)
    by dianem on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 09:10:54 AM EST
    ...without going to the extremes to which we go. I believe in capital punishment, but that it should be reserved for the most egregious crimes and only when guilt is overwhelmingly proven (i.e. extensive physical evidence tying the suspect to the crime - not just witnesses, who are unreliable). Some people commit crimes that are so horrible that they sacrifice their right to personhood. But we overdo it. We apply the death penalty as if it were no more than a routine punishment, instead of the most severe punishment we can devise. At the very least, as long as there is doubt that any of the people who are being executed are guilty, then we have a serious problem and should not be killing people.

    A nation that would (none / 0) (#21)
    by jondee on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 11:32:38 AM EST
    only prevent that many (hypthetical) murders by your methods needs to go back to it's cave and start studying morality all over again.

    Evil-doers and good-doers aside.


    Death penalty in the Democratic platform? (none / 0) (#8)
    by Ben Masel on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 08:35:29 AM EST
    Bill Clinton insisted it be included in 1996, with no open dissent tolerated. His "60 New Death penalties" legislation allows execution for such trivial offenses as raising a field of hemp.

    Not removed until 2004. Kudos to Senator Kerry.

    Raising a field of hemp? (none / 0) (#20)
    by jondee on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 11:22:16 AM EST
    Where'd you hear that, from the same folks that are still investigating the Vince Foster - Ron Brown murders?

    Nope, read the Statute. (none / 0) (#23)
    by Ben Masel on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 12:26:18 PM EST
    I think this is actually correct (none / 0) (#26)
    by fuzzyone on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 12:53:22 PM EST
    though I don't have time to track down the old version of the statute.

    Whatever the specifics on this, it is undeniable that one of Clinton's most reprehensible acts was passage of the AEDPA which vastly expanded the federal death penalty and, more importantly, gutted federal habeas corpus review of state criminal cases.  You can like Bill, I was always lukewarm on him, but on crime in general and the death penalty in particular he was horrible.


    A Little Context (none / 0) (#29)
    by Elporton on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 01:26:31 PM EST
    The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) was passed just short of a year after the bombing of the Murrah building in OKC and it got strong support in both the Republican controlled House and Senate.

    So What? (none / 0) (#30)
    by squeaky on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 01:40:51 PM EST
    Are you an apologist for Yoo's torture memo, the Patriot Act, or the AMUF as well?

    Since When.. (none / 0) (#32)
    by Elporton on Wed Apr 16, 2008 at 11:50:56 AM EST
    was context the same as an apology?  And where did the rest of that come from?

    Seperate statute (none / 0) (#31)
    by Ben Masel on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 01:45:17 PM EST
    The "60 New Death Penalties' were in the '94 Crime bill.

    good to see some responsibility (none / 0) (#11)
    by DandyTIger on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 09:27:11 AM EST
    on this issue. If this country is going to have capital punishment, it is paramount that it not execute innocent people, and whatever method they use must be as humane as possible.

    Remember all you who are fine with capital punishment, if the state executes an innocent person, you as a member of that state at a moral level at least have participated in murder. So let's make sure please. And since we have new technology, any case where that technology can be employed, should be reviewed.

    Hear, hear (none / 0) (#12)
    by miked on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 09:27:34 AM EST
    Absolutely agree. To argue that the death penalty is fundamentally immoral is simply a matter of opinion, to call it "cruel and unusual punishment" by constitutional standards is borderline ludicrous, and to claim that it doesn't have a deterrent effect is at least in principle refutable (and if I was forced to bet on it - I'm afraid I'd put my money on it having some deterrent effect).

    The best line of argument is clearly to point out the flaws in implementation. This has the advantage of being appealing to many conservatives as well - after all, if they don't trust the government to spend money wisely or operate a health care system, why should they trust it to administer the death penalty fairly?

    This is a case where anecdotal evidence is useful. I think we should do everything we can to publicize wrongful death penalty convictions whenever they are discovered.

    The ultimate price (none / 0) (#13)
    by nellre on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 09:35:55 AM EST
    The ultimate price might be paid by an innocent person because our system is imperfect. People are imperfect, justice relies on people, and so I think we'll always have an imperfect system.

    That's all I need to make up my mind.

    Perhaps I'm Confused (none / 0) (#15)
    by Elporton on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 10:11:45 AM EST
    Is it your view that it's acceptable to voluntarily terminate the life of an innocent person because the system is composed of people who make mistakes?

    Is it just a "mistake" (none / 0) (#18)
    by jondee on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 11:10:30 AM EST
    that impoverished capital defendents all too often are saddled with inadequate, and, sometimes, grossly incompetent representation that leads directly to their one way trip down the U.S of Amnesia's memory hole?

    Of course, of such injection table fodder are the political careers of certain "tough" semi-humanoid
    statesmen built upon; just as you may sometimes need 4,000 or so dead to go along with your glorious historical legacy.

    And, if executions are a "detterent", you have to wonder what kind of mom ' n apple pie lunatic asylum we'd be living in without them. What happened to your "shining city on a hill" folks?


    i can easily refute this absurd (none / 0) (#17)
    by cpinva on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 10:49:24 AM EST

    and to claim that it doesn't have a deterrent effect is at least in principle refutable (and if I was forced to bet on it - I'm afraid I'd put my money on it having some deterrent effect).

    if that were actually true, we'd have no more murders, ever, because we've certainly had capital punishment long enough (3500 years, give or take), the "deterrent effect" should be pronounced. clearly, that's not the case. executing people in private certainly deters no one.

    the "deterrent effect" cannot be proven, one way or the other.

    ben masel: please provide cite for this assertion:

    Bill Clinton insisted it be included in 1996, with no open dissent tolerated. His "60 New Death penalties" legislation allows execution for such trivial offenses as raising a field of hemp.

    sounds bogus to me.

    gov. kaine is an outspoken opponent of the death penalty, based on his catholic background. he also is opposed to a woman's right to choose, also due to his catholic background.

    to his credit, gov. kaine was very upfront about both of these positions during his campaign, and stated that his personal feelings would not keep him from enforcing the laws as written. that got my vote.

    Executions (none / 0) (#19)
    by jondee on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 11:14:47 AM EST
    have always been a cathartic ritual for a certain psychological demograph.

    I'd be willing to bet alot of them are the same ones who think a cruicifixtion 2,000 years ago took away their "sins".


    oddly enough, (none / 0) (#22)
    by cpinva on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 11:55:50 AM EST
    not all of them. it apparently wasn't sufficient to wash away the stain of the "original sin" of adam's in the garden of eden. so baptism, to wash that sin away, is still required.

    catholics are a tough crowd! lol


    For an atty your logic is sorely lacking. (none / 0) (#25)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 12:37:22 PM EST
    executing people in private certainly deters no one.

    the "deterrent effect" cannot be proven, one way or the other.

    Yes, that "deterrant effect" (none / 0) (#27)
    by splashy on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 12:59:48 PM EST
    Is not really relevant, considering people like Ted Bundy, who went to Florida BECAUSE they had the death penalty and bludgeoned a bunch of women in a dormitory to get caught. He was so messed up he WANTED to die. Same with people who want to "suicide by cop" who kill to be killed. No deterrent there!

    Life without parole seems far more logical and practical. It's less expensive, and they can't do any more harm to the populace. Of course, they need to be segregated from the general prison population, or at least held in such a way that they can not kill again.

    The funds that are saved could be put into prevention of murder, by putting in programs like universal health care (who knows how many infections and untreated injuries lead to murder because the brains of the untreated are damaged?) and doing other things to help people grow up in decent surroundings.


    I support the DP (none / 0) (#28)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 01:11:44 PM EST
    and also support every effort to ensure it's applied as fairly and humanely as possible.

    I support it because in addition to common sense suggesting it has some, at least, deterrent effect, but even if it had absolutely no deterrent effect it seems clear that with the DP fewer innocents are murdered than w/o it.

    The Bedau-Radelet Study concluded that 23 innocents had been convicted and executed between 1900 and 1987.

    While many - on both sides of the argument - have found the study to be fatally flawed, 23 innocents executed is a basis, anyway, that can be used for the purpose of discussion.

    There are no studies that I could find defining the number of innocents (prison guards, prison workers, fellow inmates, general public should the murderer be released or escape from prison, etc.) that had been murdered by convicted murderers during that time, but common sense suggests that that number would clearly be in excess of 23.

    So, with the DP fewer innocents are murdered than without it.