by Dudley Sharp
In a recent appellate opinion, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Tom Price went on a rant against the death penalty.
He was dead wrong on everything.
The judge’s willful ignorance and grandstanding should be an embarrassment to the court.
The judge thinks that Texas’ 2005 law establishing life without parole (LWOP) makes the death penalty unnecessary.
That only makes sense if we equate life and death. Most folks, just as criminals, know the difference.
99% of criminal defendants and those convicted, in death penalty eligible cases, do all they can, in pre trial, trial, within appeals and in commutation proceedings to avoid death and pursue life.
Unanimous Texas juries continue to select death in those cases wherein they find it the most just sanction available - 100 times since the new LWOP law was passed - proof that jurors appreciate the obvious difference between the two sanctions, just as do criminals, (all but one) judges, prosecutors, defense counsel and citizens.
Justice is the reason for the death penalty, as with all sanctions.
The judge thinks the possibility of executing a wrongfully convicted person is an “irrational risk that should not be tolerated by the criminal justice system.”
Judge, consider reality:
More actual innocents will die without the death penalty; more actual innocents will be spared with the death penalty.
The death penalty helps to spare more innocent lives in three ways, to a greater degree than does LWOP (1):
Enhanced due process — No one denies that the death penalty has greater due process protections than do any other sanctions, offering greater protections for both the actually innocent and the actually guilty.
Enhanced incapacitation — Living murderers harm and murder, again. Executed ones do not.
Enhanced deterrence — The evidence that the death penalty deters some is overwhelming. The evidence that the death penalty deters none does not exist. Death is feared more than life. Life is preferred over death. That which we fear more, deters more. That which we prefer more, deters less.
1) on average, since 1973, the US has executed 33 murderers/yr., with no proof of an innocent executed, at least since the 1930s (1);
2) since 1973, at least 14,000 additional innocents have been murdered in the United States by known murderers that we have allowed to murder again — recidivist murderers (1);
3) up to 8,000 innocents are murdered every year by known criminals that we have released or failed to incarcerate (1).
Based upon the judge’s reasoning and the facts, the true “irrational risk” is leaving murderers alive and letting countless known criminals back into the free world.
The judge is aware of lifers, in Texas, who have murdered, again. He has ruled on such cases.
Judge? Oh . . . and 5,000 die/yr. while in US criminal custody (1).
Anti-death penalty folks have redefined both “exonerated” and “innocent” on death row to deceptively increase the numbers, a scam that has been exposed for over 15 years and is the model for Price’s reference (2), next.
Judge Price heads down that required road of anti death penalty advocacy, using a Michigan/Northwestern study (3) that defines "exoneration" of those convicted in a manner that has absolutely nothing to do with actual innocence, as his referenced study makes clear (2) and as Judge Price, clearly, should know.
Judge Price, did you fact check?
The Texas Center for Actual Innocence (U of Texas Law School) calls cases "actually innocent" when the new evidence "does not depend upon new evidence of actual innocence, but instead upon evidence of a constitutional violation that probably resulted in a trial in which an innocent person may have been convicted."
"probably" "may have been" "does not depend upon new evidence of actual innocence" - Yet, they call them "actually innocent".
Standard and wrong.
There is no need to wonder why Judge Price completely avoided the Texas legal system, which has a statute to determine actual innocence (4), cases which are, thankfully, extremely rare.
Texas has declared two from death row to be actually innocent, with that statute.
As predicted, the anti death penalty cabal, inclusive of the media, wrongly finds 12 Texas death row inmates to be "exonerated" or "innocent", an 83% "error" rate in such claims, the same error rate as the claims in Florida (5).
Why have only two of those 12 inmates availed themselves of the legal system to declare themselves actual innocent and receive $80,000 in compensation for each year of incarceration? The others don’t have the proof for actual innocence.
The Texas statute was amended, so that "belief", as opposed to evidence, can be used to determine "actual innocence" (6) -- a perversion of the intent of the original law and of the definition of "actual innocence".
That amendment was added so that Anthony Graves could claim to be actually innocent and collect $80,000/yr., for wrongful incarceration.
This "belief" foundation confounds a well known crime truism: "absence of evidence" is not "evidence of absence".
All states should have “Proof for Actual Innocence” laws, absent a "belief" category, so we can get rid of these common exoneration frauds/confusions, something which had occurred in Texas, until that "belief" amendment was added.
Let's deal with true actual innocence cases with the seriousness and clarity they deserve.
How about it Judge?
1) The Death Penalty: Do Innocents Matter? A Review of All Innocence Issueshttp://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-death-penalty-do-innocents-matter.html
3) see 3 & 4, later 5-13
4) CIVIL PRACTICE AND REMEDIES CODE, TITLE 5. GOVERNMENTAL LIABILITY, CHAPTER 103. COMPENSATION TO PERSONS WRONGFULLY IMPRISONED, SUBCHAPTER A. ELIGIBILITY; NOTICE OF ELIGIBILITY