Last edited 11/3/2016
USA Today: Another Major Media Anti Death Penalty Manifesto
To: Editorial Board, Editors, Columnists, crime reporters
RE: How bad is "Courts, states put death penalty on life support", Richard Wolf and Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY, 9/14/2015
From: Dudley Sharp
CC: Ethics Committee & Board of Directors
and many others
If you like one sided news pieces, no thinking outside the anti death penalty box and rare fact checking, you have your perfect storm.
Anti death penalty folks couldn't have bought this kind of support.
1) USA Today: "Of all the arguments against capital punishment, none is as powerful as the risk of executing the innocent. Yet research shows about 4% of prisoners sentenced to death are just that."
REBUTTAL: Complete utter nonsense.
The 4% innocent is based upon a well known, erroneous database, created by an anti death penalty group, The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) which, depending upon various reviews, is 70-83% in error with their "innocence" claims, which are based upon redefining both "innocent" and "exonerated", as if they had redefined lie as truth and, then, stuffed a bunch of cases into those fraudulent definitions (1a&b).
I am unaware of any reporter, who has reported on the death penalty frequently, who is unaware of this.
The media is "all in" on this deception, with few exception. All you have to do is ask.
The DPIC will tell you that their "exoneration" and "innocent" released from death row have nothing to do with actual innocence. Simple fact checking confirms this.
There is no poof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since the 1930s. Since 1973, 16,000 innocents have been murdered by those known murderers that we have allowed to murder, again - recidivist murderers (2).
Where are the innocents most at risk? When we allow murderers to live. USAT missed it.
Innocents are better protected, in three ways, by the death penalty than by Life Without Parole (LWOP) (2).
USAT needs some sense of reality, proportion and balance. Fact checking would help, as well. Journalism 101?
2) USA Today: "Prosecutors, judges and juries also are being influenced by capital punishment's myriad afflictions: racial and ethnic discrimination, geographic disparities -- "with half of (death sentences) coming in just 2% of the nation's counties." -- (and) decades spent on death row and glaring mistakes that have exonerated 155 prisoners in the last 42 years."
REBUTTAL to all USAT points:
A. GEOGRAPHIC DISPARITY:
Did USAT consider that half the capital murders/executions might occur in only 2% of the nations death penalty counties (3)?
Although an obvious place to start, as well as confirmed reality (3), it appears USAT avoided the obvious.
The majority of death sentences come from where the capital murders are committed, as one would expect (3) and, secondarily, seeking death is based upon prosecutorial discretion, as with all cases.
B. EXONERATION FRAUDS:
The "exoneration" claims have been a well known fraud, for at least 15 years, as anyone who fact checks is aware (see review in P1 and fn 1a&b). Depending upon review, from 26-46 death row inmates may have had solid evidence of actual innocence -- 0.4% of those so sentenced -- and were, then, released from death row, since 1976 (1b). A remarkable record of accuracy.
C. RACIAL AND ETHNIC DISCRIMINATION
"White murderers are twice as likely to be executed as are black murderers (4).
56% of those executed are white, 35% black (4).
D. CAPITAL PUNISHMENTS MYRIAD AFFLICTIONS
The "afflictions" are, often, little fact checking and a one sided presentations by the media.
3) USA Today: "The emotional and financial toll of prosecuting a single capital case to its conclusion, along with the increased availability of life without parole and continuing court challenges to execution methods, have made the ultimate punishment more elusive than at any time since its reinstatement in 1976" " . . . death sentences dropped from a high of 315 in 1996 to 73 last year."
"The number of executions peaked at 98 in 1999 and has dropped since then, hitting a low of 35 last year. In the first eight months of this year, 20 prisoners have been killed — 16 of them in Texas and Missouri."
REBUTTAL: More elusive? True, but not for the reasons given by USAT.
Obvious facts elude USAT.
A. FEWER CAPITAL MURDERS = FEWER DEATH SENTENCES
Any additional "elusiveness" of the death penalty is based upon the reductions in murders and, even more so, on a even greater reduction in capital murders, the obvious first option to check and something USAT never even considered -- the most obvious was the most elusive, for USAT- fewer capital murders equals fewer death sentences.
The US has had double digit executions, annually, from 1984 - 2014 (5) . Murders are, now, at a 46 year low (6). Murder rates are, now, at a 57 year low (6). It's not surprising that death sentences are at a 41 year low (5) - "more elusive", of course.
In the US, from 1991-2013, there was 43% drop in murders (a 54% drop in murder rates), a 25% drop in rapes (a 40% drop in rate) and a 50% drop in robberies (a 60% drop in rate) (6). As rape/murders, robbery/murders are the most common death penalty eligible crimes, those, likely, dropped from 60-80%, nationally, accounting for the vast majority of the drop in death sentences.
Based upon new case law and state death penalty repeals, such would, likely, account for about a 12% reduction in death sentences, bringing the 315 down to 277 (8).
So what is the explanation for the 74% drop to 73 from 277?
With about a 60-80% drop in capital murders (murders/rapes/robberies 1994-2013) (6) plus additional reductions for other reasons, such as LWOP, up front costs, as others, all contributing to prosecutorial frustration/discretion, as a rule all caused or affected by . . . .
B. JUDICIAL ROADBLOCKS
Judges are the case managers, at pre trial, trial and on appeals - they are in control of both time and costs, some with responsibility others with complete abandon.
Because of judicial roadblocks and delays - judges decide on timing and costs - prosecutors may just get fed up, choosing to avoid the death penalty, seek a LWOP trial instead, or, better, a plea to LWOP, avoiding the huge costs and countless delays imposed by many judges in death penalty cases, at pretrial, in trial and within appeals.
USAT missed that such was Josh Marquis' point.
In states like California, Kansas and Pennsylvania, judges are, very openly, killing the death penalty, as in New Jersey and Connecticut.
For example, in the modern era, post Gregg v Georgia (1976):
Virginia executed her first 111 murderers within 7.1 years, on average (9), has executed 72% of those sent to death row and has an 11% overturning rate in appeals (7). Virginia's latest execution, 10/1/2015, occurred after 5 years of appeals.
Pennsylvania has executed only 3 of the 417 sentenced to death, or 0.7%, and has a 45% overturning rate in appeals (7), likely to become 90%, if the judges will allow appeals to end. Why?
Pa judges will only allow executions when the murderer "volunteers" and waives appeals, whereas Virginia judges are responsible and respect the law.
Pa judges are, quite obviously, obstructionists to the law, a common and obvious problem in many jurisdictions.
Judges have, intentionally, destroyed the California system.
For many, the judicial problems are just too much.
USAT, completely, missed the judicial component, which is huge.
C. WHY FEWER EXECUTIONS?
C.1. Fewer death sentences will equal fewer execution and . . .
Since 2006, executions have been affected by litigation related to the lethal injection method, as well as drug shortages, within that method, resulting in a "slowdown" of executions averaging 43 per year (2007-2013) (5).
It is very rare to have executions over 60 per year, which has only occurred 7 times (1997-2013), or 18% of execution years (5).
Excluding those exceptions, the average is 27 executions per year (1977-1996, 2004-2013) and, if starting with double digit executions in 1984, the average is 36 executions per year (5).
The "slowdown" period has averaged 43 executions/year and could get down to a 27-36 average, within the next 5 years, if the actual execution problems are not corrected.
C.2. 128% INCREASE IN APPEALS TIME
Executions are, undoubtedly, much fewer than they would otherwise be, because the time between sentencing and executions has risen by 128%, from 6.6 years, the average time from 1984-1988, when double digit executions began, to 15 years, the average time from 2009-2013 (11).
This is the fault of the judges, again, and is an intended killer of the death penalty, as virtually every hearing on the death penalty attests and might be the greatest reducer of executions, but was, completely, missed by USAT.
In 1996, the US Congress passed the Anti terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), part of which was supposed to quicken death penalty appeals.
Every year since then, the average time of appeals, until execution, has been greater than in 1996 (10.4 years), with the longest being 16.5 years, (2011) (11).
Apparently, judges didn't like the AEDPA . The judicial move against the death penalty became even more obvious.
USAT missed it.
C.3. EXECUTION METHOD
Until jurisdictions change the method of execution, they will continue to have problems, brought on by anti death groups (17) pressuring those manufacturers to deny the best drugs for pain free executions to the US (17), thereby applying more risk to the inmates and delaying, but not stopping, any executions (17).
As Charles Lane of the Washington Post observed: "What we have here is not a serious, effective protest, but an exercise in feel-good politics that puts innocent people at risk." (18).
-- NITROGEN GAS
It appears the best replacement is nitrogen gas - it cannot be withheld, is easily accessible, peaceful and euphoric, very easy to administer - just an oxygen mask and a tank of gas, just turn the knob (17).
4) USA Today: "Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said "From a defendant's perspective, to receive that sentence, and certainly to find it implemented, is the equivalent of being struck by lightning." "The imposition and implementation of the death penalty seems capricious, random, indeed arbitrary,'' "The Eighth Amendment forbids punishments that are cruel and unusual" "In the last two decades, the imposition and implementation of the death penalty have increasingly become unusual."
"Just last month, Connecticut's Supreme Court struck down the death penalty for prisoners already convicted of their crimes, going beyond the legislature's prospective repeal."
A. Rebuttal to Breyer:
Here is his "equivalent":
The chances of being struck by lightning in the US, within 11 years, is 1 in 63,636. The chances of being executed in the US, within 11 years of a death sentence, is 1 in 6.
When is a 10,000 times difference "Equivalent"?
Least arbitrary and capricious
Of all criminal cases, the death penalty has 1) the greatest restrictions on its application; 2) the greatest due process protections in pre trial, at trial, in appeals and 3) the greatest consideration in executive clemency and commutations, meaning, of course, that the death penalty must be . . . the least arbitrary and capricious of all criminal sanctions.
The unusual nature of the death penalty is based within it's extremely small application, the difficulties, costs and delays, many, intentionally, caused by judges, to undermine the death penalty and a huge reduction in capital murders over the last two decades, none of which Breyer discussed as the cause for the "unusual".
B. REBUTTAL to Ct Supreme Court:
Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers, one of three dissenters wrote that "every step" of the majority's opinion was "fundamentally flawed." "The majority's determination that the death penalty is unconstitutional under our state's constitution is based on a house of cards, falling under the slightest breath of scrutiny."
As it was.
All reflecting how poor the reasoning is with many of the anti death penalty justices.
USAT never even considered those points, as USAT only pushes the anti death penalty message.
5) USA TODAY: "In Colorado last month, jurors couldn't agree on the death penalty for James Holmes, who (murdered) 12 . . . :" "Their indecision resulted in an automatic sentence of life without parole."
Rebuttal: Indecision? Hardly. It was very decisive, by any measure.
11 jurors (92%) voted for death and only 1 (8%) voted for life (12) - a very decisive vote and also, by far, the most anti democratic result within the US, with the vast minority ruling over the vast majority.
Possibly, in respecting democratic principles, a majority vote should rule the sentence.
6) USA Today: "A California study in 2008 found the state spent $137 million annually to support the death penalty but would spend only $11.5 million if it was repealed."
Rebuttal. Impossible and complete utter nonsense.
Does USAT fact check? No.
The $11.5 million means that California would only be spending $15,000/yr/inmate.
The average cost per inmate per year, in Ca, for 2007-2008, was $49,000/yr. (9).
With confirmed California Corrections cost increases, that will, likely, be over $65,000/inmate/yr, on average, today - not $15,000 (9).
This $49,000/inmate/yr is the average for all inmates, not the level IV security of death row inmate like criminals that will cost more, if not much more.
For higher security inmates, which, likely, would include those transferred from death row, the costs range from $71,000 - $172,000/inmate/yr. (9), not $15,000.
USAT, fact checking?
7) USA Today: "A Colorado study in 2013 found that death penalty cases took more than five years on average to complete, compared to 1 1/2 years for cases involving life without parole."
Rebuttal: USAT didn't even consider how completely irresponsible Colorado judges are. Let's look.
John Allen Muhammad , the DC sniper, was arrested on October 24, 2002, his Virginia trial began on October 14, 2003, he was sentenced to death on November 24, 2003 and was executed in Virginia on November 10, 2009.
From arrest to sentence was, exactly, 12 months. The prosecution called more than 130 witnesses and introduced more than 400 pieces of evidence. It was 6 years from sentencing to execution.
That's how incredibly wasteful Colorado and many other state judges are.
Why didn't USAT use Virginia or Texas as examples, instead of Colorado? Guess.
USAT wouldn't want to show that better management meant a better death penalty.
Therefore, just show the worst.
Would it be appropriate, when reviewing USA Today's journalistic record, to only look at her disasters - as this article - and, completely, avoid any successes?
8) USA Today: "The cross-country battle over lethal injection methods has taken on added importance since last year, when inmates in Ohio, Oklahoma and Arizona gasped, moaned or writhed in pain during the administration of a three-drug cocktail including the sedative midazolam. But other protocols have come under attack as well."
Rebuttal: How misleading and/or a lack of fact checking.
There is, certainly, no evidence that the death row inmates suffered any pain in the Arizona (13) or Ohio (14) executions. The problem in Oklahoma was poor procedure, not the drug (15).
"No one who witnessed the execution has said Wood ever woke up. It simply took a long time for him to die." (13)
"(Arizona Department of Corrections Director Charles Ryan) said IV lines in the inmate’s arms were “perfectly placed” and insisted that Wood felt no pain. " (13)
He is correct , there could have been no pain, only sedation, sleep, coma and death (with apnea, shortness of breath, wheezing, other noises, etc. common.
“This doesn't actually sound like a botched execution. This actually sounds like a typical scenario if you used that drug combination,” said Karen Sibert, an anesthesiologist and associate professor at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Sibert was speaking on behalf of the California Society of Anesthesiologists." (13)
"State prison records released Monday say McGuire told guards that (McGuire's counsel, Robert) Lowe counseled him to make a show of his death that would, perhaps, lead to abolition of the death penalty. But three accounts from prison officials indicate McGuire refused to put on a display." (14)
"Amy Borror, a spokeswoman for the public defender's office, said all accounts from execution eyewitnesses - which did not include Lowe - indicate McGuire was unconscious at the time he struggled to breathe." (14)
"Medical experts would not comment on Mr. McGuire’s execution or speculate about what he experienced. They agreed that used for surgery, the two drugs would not cause pain. (14).
“By virtue of what they do, they cause unconsciousness, and they inhibit pain,” said Dr. Howard Nearman, professor of anesthesiology at Case Western Reserve University (14).
As there was no surgery, both drugs were given at overdose levels and both drugs would enhance the effects of the other, of course there was no pain.
Do folks wheeze, snore, move or cough etc. while sleeping? Do those with opiate overdoses wheeze, snore, move, cough, have spasms, etc.? Of course, which is all that happened with McGuire, as some predicted.
The Associate Press witness:
"McGuire was still for almost five minutes, then emitted a loud snort, as if snoring, and continued to make that sound over the next several minutes. He also soundlessly opened and shut his mouth several times as his stomach rose and fell." "A coughing sound was Dennis McGuire’s last apparent movement, at 10:43 a.m. He was pronounced dead 10 minutes later." (14)
How did USAT leave all that out?
Either they don't fact check and/or they only want you to see one side of the story, even if it is false or misleading.
9) USA Today: "Today, there is a similar consensus (against the death penalty) : Two-thirds of the states have held no executions since 2010. And the percentage of Americans who favor capital punishment is down from 78% two decades ago to 56% today, according to the Pew Research Center."
Rebuttal: USAT has zero factual basis for finding a consensus against the death penalty, when they quote 56% (or 86%) death penalty support and because some judges, some governors, some attorney generals and/or some legislators are blocking executions and/or are, otherwise, prolonging appeals.
Polling: Pew shows 56% support, a majority. But, let's not have our pro death penalty consensus be based upon only those polls which the media wishes us to see.
For example, a 2013 poll by Angus-Reid (AR) found 86% death penalty support, nationally (16). All media outlets decided not to carry that poll, even though AR has an excellent polling record, inclusive of being the most accurate in the 2008 presidential election (16).
AR got the message and stopped doing their annual death penalty poll.
Why was the support so high? Because AR has a "sometimes" support the death penalty answer, exactly the fashion in which we apply the death penalty, rarely and sometimes, making it the most accurate barometer of death penalty support. The other two choices are "always" and "never", making "sometimes" the perfect response, reflecting the US death penalty system.
"similar consensus" - really USAT?
10) USA Today: "Rep. Renny Cushing is an unlikely proponent of abolition. His father and brother-in-law were murdered in separate incidents, 23 years and a thousand miles apart. Still, he says death sentences just divert attention from where it's most needed." "It makes rock stars out of killers. It allows us in many ways to ignore or not tend to the needs of individual victims' survivors."
REBUTTAL: USAT is, completely, clueless to Cushing's hypocrisy . . . or they avoided it.
Neither of the Cushing family murderers were death penalty eligible. His father's murder resulted in the maximum sentence, yet Cushing works against all other victim survivors who want the maximum sentence, the death penalty, in their, actual, death penalty cases.
Cushing is a leader in turning victim against victim and working against the desires of other victim survivors, if they find justice is best served by a death sentence (19).
Why can't Cushing and others, simply, leave the death penalty alone, tell other victim survivors they respect their right to seek the death penalty in their case? Because they value making sure that all murderers live, above the wishes of other murder victim survivors (19).
Wanting all murderers to live, no matter the cost, is a defining anti death penalty characteristic (2).
11) USA TODAY: "A new study by the anti-death penalty group Reprieve Australia showed that prosecutors in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, struck would-be black jurors 46% of the time, compared to 15% for others."
REBUTTAL: As Reprieve is an anti death penalty group, USAT blindly accepted the results, as standard. If blacks in Caddo Parish opposed the death penalty at a rate three times that of other groups, the would-be black juror striking rate would be expected, as in North Carolina, for example (20).
But we don't know, because that wouldn't matter, as USAT's concern was furthering the anti death penalty message. Done.
12) USA Today: "Glossip's (innocence) contention has won support from the likes of British business executive Richard Branson, actress Susan Sarandon and TV's "Dr. Phil" McGraw. More than 250,000 online petitions seeking a 60-day reprieve were delivered to Gov. Mary Fallin this month. On Friday, former U.S. senator Tom Coburn and former University of Oklahoma head football coach Barry Switzer added their names."
REBUTTAL: Some media just become like melted butter before celebrities. Just so much oohs and ahhs.
The Glossip case sure is looking a lot like the Troy Davis fiasco (20):
"The Troy Davis campaign, like many before it, is a simple, blatant fraud, easily uncovered by the most basic of fact checking." "The case for Davis' guilt is overwhelming, just as were his due process protections, which may have surpassed that of all but a few death row inmates." (21)
As USAT, some media cannot be distinguished from anti death penalty activists and the glam of quoting celebrities replaced reviewing the appellate record and the judicial decisions, just as USAT did here.
Is Glossip innocent or guilty? USAT doesn't help, much, only giving us celebrities.
“This (Glossip PR) is a bull**** public relations campaign,” District Attorney David Prater told reporters, "that’s all it is, to abolish the death penalty in this state and throughout the country. Otherwise, they'd be acting like lawyers and be filing paperwork and taking paperwork and evidence to the prosecutor and the governor’s office.”
"Our position has always been that they need to take any evidence to a court,” said Alex Weintz, spokesman for Fallin. “It is not about petition drives and celebrity endorsements.”
Heck if its not, ask USAT.
13) USA Today: Murdered Sheriff Sgt. Michael Naylor's widow, Denise Davis didn't wish to go through either death penalty trial or appeals for her husband's murderer.
USAT missed the pro death penalty point, of course.
Only because of the death penalty was a plea, to a sentence of life without parole (LWOP), possible.
Without the death penalty, only a plea to life with parole would have been possible, a plea that would not have been accepted, requiring a LWOP trial, with appeals, if found guilty.
The death penalty, sparing a little anguish and a lot of time and money, by allowing for LWOP pleas - a different perspective than USAT.
14) USA Today: "Seven states have repealed the death penalty since 2007. Among the 31 that retain it, governors have imposed a moratorium in four, and most others haven't executed anyone in years. Only seven states carried out executions in the past two years."
REBUTTAL - Important facts: Since 2007, 12 states have ended executions and/or the death penalty.
5 have repealed the death penalty, by law, by a majority Democratic legislature, with a Democratic Governor, signing the repeal. 2 of those 5 (NJ and IL) did so in a lame duck session.
5 states have stopped executions, all by Democratic Governor fiat, inclusive of California, whose governor, attorney general and corrections dept. did nothing for 7 years, about a federal and, later, state court ruling against their lethal injection protocol, when numerous states had solid protocols, approved by federal courts, which Ca could have presented to the federal judge, within hours of the rulings, 7-9 years, ago.
One "conservative" (22) legislature Nebraska, repealed the death penalty, overcoming the Republican governor's veto. A long time Democratic, anti death penalty activist, Sen. Ernie Chambers, who compares US police to ISIS, was the, undisputed, leader on the anti death penalty side, as he has been for decades.
The Nebraska repeal has been stopped by a conservative led pro death penalty referendum campaign and will not be entered into law. A vote is required on the issue in 2016.
That vote occurred on November 8, 2016, which retained the death penalty in Nebraska (61%-39%), as additional death penalty votes in California and Oklahoma strengthened death penalty application.
Anti death penalty forces did all they could to stop citizens from voting on the issue.
I am unaware of any US popular vote against the death penalty.
A New York state appellate court found their statute to be unconstitutional.
Looks like the Democratic Party is driving this bus - USAT missed it. Or . . .
In all 12 instances, the majority in those states, supported/support the death penalty. Even, the majority populations in Western Europe supported the execution of Saddam Hussein, a "sometimes" example in polling (16).
Sometimes the voice of the people matters. Sometimes not.
15) USA TODAY: "Even in Texas . . . the death penalty is on the ropes. The state sentenced 48 people to death as recently as 1999. So far this year? Not a single one."
REBUTTAL - More detail: Keep in mind that capital murders may have dropped by 80% in Texas from 1991 - 2013, Murders have dropped 57%, rapes 19% and robberies 36% (6), A much lower occurrence of rape/murders and robbery/murders, the dominant death penalty eligible murders, equals a much lower number of death sentences. Murders "rates" have dropped 71%, rapes 47% and robberies 58% (6).
I agree, zero death sentences, so far, in 2015, is remarkable.
Hope capital murders, as all violent crimes, keep dropping.
b) Start with sections 3 & 4
2) The Death Penalty: Do Innocents Matter? A Review of All Innocence Issues
3) Judges Responsible For Grossly Uneven Executions
4) RACE & THE DEATH PENALTY: A REBUTTAL TO THE RACISM CLAIMS
5) Capital Punishment, 2013 – Statistical Tables, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Table 11, Number of inmates executed, by race and Hispanic origin, 1977–2013,
6) United States Crime Data, from FBI UCR
The Disaster Center is a convenient and reliable source for crime data
1957 murder rate of 4.0 from http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0873729.html
7) Capital Punishment, 2013 – Statistical Tables, Bureau of Justice Statistics, TABLE 16 Prisoners sentenced to death and the outcome of the sentence, by year of sentencing, 1973–2013 http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/cp13st.pdf
8) Total cases affected 746, so far : state law or court ruling, after 1973, CT, IL, MD, MA, NJ, NM, NY; cases stopping specific case death penalty application, Atkins v Virginia, Roper vs Simmons, Ring vs Arizona and others.
My informed estimate is that we are looking at a total of a 12% drop in death sentences, based upon new case law reductions and death penalty repeal, alone.
9) See Virginia and California
11) Capital Punishment, 2013 – Statistical Tables, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Table 10. Average time between sentencing and execution, 1977–2013, 12/2014,
95% of Murder Victim's Family Members Support Death Penalty
17) The Death Penalty & Medical Ethics Revisited
19) Murder Victims' Families Against The Death Penalty: More Hurt For Victims Families
20) For Example: One would expect that blacks would be 3 times as likely to be excused from jury service in North Carolina death penalty cases, as are whites, based solely on the fact that 35% of blacks strongly oppose the death penalty, whites only 11%.
22) On classic liberal lines, many alleged conservatives voted for and voted to override conservative Governors's veto so that Nebraska would increase the gas tax, repeal the death penalty and give driver’s licenses to children of illegal immigrants.