Saturday, March 04, 2017

WFAA - #VerifyThis - Death Penalty Series

For Publication on the WFAA site. 

As per the reporter's request for the #VerifyThis, Death Penalty Series: 

"An informed opinion, from an opinionated person. That's what we're going for." 

Well, here it is: 


Subject: How Important is the Pro Death Penalty Perspective? 

RE: Let's #VerifyThis: Do we need the death penalty?
David Schechter, WFAA 10:18 AM. CST February 24, 2017 

From: Dudley Sharp, a pro death penalty expert 

Please forward to Sharmin Anselm 

1) This is a story where we have one pro death penalty person, Sharmin Anselm, a random volunteer, not an expert, and five anti death penalty folks, of whom two are experts. 

Typical death penalty media balance. 

2) Sharmin's position is this: “If you're a pedophile and you've murdered a child, I don’t think you should have that right to live."
"For Sharmin it still comes down to this... the most horrific crimes deserve the ultimate punishment." 

"Sharmin's rock solid in favor of the death penalty." 

Why? Justice --  arguably the greatest of man's goals and accomplishments. 

3) So what does reporter David Schechter do? He  tests Sharmin's position against those 5 anti death penalty folks. 

The result? Sharmin's position is unscathed. 

4) Regarding soon to be executed robber/double murderer Terry Edwards, long time death penalty opponent, protester Hartwell asks: “What do we gain by killing Terry tonight? What is going to be accomplished?” “Nothing. Absolute nothing." 

Hartwell, completely, avoids justice, the reason the jury gave that sentence and the reason for the death penalty, as for all sanctions. 

That obvious answer eludes Hartwell, but not Sharmin. 

5) "Before (reporter) David headed in to witness the execution, he and Sharmin wanted to learn about the legal system that sends inmates to death row." 

So who does David choose to consult?

Rick Halperin, of course, an internationally recognized opponent of death penalty, who says "when it comes to the capital punishment -- if you're poor -- the legal system is broken." “It is the have-nots of our society. They are the easiest group of people not to like and to care even less about because most of them have done these terrible things." 

David reports: "The largest group are black, at 44%, . . .  65% report having less than a high school education." with Halperin adding: the "people least equipped to defend themselves." 

Is David implying that there is something amiss about the 44% or the 65%.  What is the racial breakdown of capital murderers in Texas? Are those educated at less than a 12th grade education incapable of knowing that capital murder is wrong? 

Halperin adds "I just don't think we should be in the business of killing people, especially when the system is so flawed." 

Just the same ole, same ole, anti death penalty mantra "the poor murderer". 

Notice, not one flaw was revealed by Halperin (just whining), nor by David. 

Left out of David's and Halperin's  "legal system" description is  . . .  the actual legal system . . . 

All defendants are provided two defense counsel and any experts deemed needed and approved by the judges, attended by incredible due process protections, with a unanimous 12-0 vote for death is required of the jury, if the murderer is sentenced to death, with the, now, death sentenced capital murderer having, on average, 11 years of appeals, with appointed appellate counsel, through both avenues of appeals, direct appeals and the writ, both through at least three courts, one state and two federal, all paid for by the taxpayers. Trips to SCOTUS are rare. 

Somehow, David "forgot" about the entire legal system. It was all left out, of course, because it is an anti death penalty biased story. Basic. 

Both Schechter and Halperin seem, completely, clueless that it was the murderers' fault that they were on death row. That thought never entered the story, except via Sharmin. 

6) "Sharmin talked with (anti death penalty) protesters, like Yancy Balderas", who "wasn't happy with her (death row) husband's court-appointed attorney." 

Of course, no mention that Yancy was unhappy or sorry for the innocent murder victims. Standard. 

7) "Protesters rang a bell 14 times, once for every year Edwards was on Death Row." 

Yet none for the innocent murder victims, whose names and lives were completely absent from the story. Typical anti death penalty sensitivity. 

8) With regard to Edward's execution, David reports, “The big sentiment I walked out of there with was the government has a lot of power. To take a life. That is a power I hadn’t thought a lot about the government having. They can take a life,” David told Sharmin. 

Governments have been taking lives, in many ways, ever since governments were created. David was unaware? 

And David's mention of the two innocent murder victims, the sole reason for Edward's execution?  - ZERO -  Very common anti death penalty stream of consciousness.

The murder victims are Subway manager Tommy Walker, 34, and an employee, Mickell Goodwin, a 26-year-old mother of two.

Walker was an ordained minister who had planned to leave the Subway job and open his own tattoo parlor soon, family members said. “He was a big teddy bear,” said Walker’s wife, Beth. “He was famous for making people laugh. His kids and grandkids were his life. He got himself ordained so he could preside at his own kids’ weddings.” 

No specific reference to them, at all, in the story.  Standard. 

9) "Sharmin and David then headed to Houston to meet with (anti death penalty activist) Anthony Graves. He spent almost 19 years on Death Row for a crime he didn't commit. 

"Fact checking? Graves was on death row for 12 years and when his death penalty was overturned, with an additional 6.5 years in prison, after that. 

Graves states: "You damaged me and now you say it’s okay?”

I have found no one who has stated that it was "OK" that Graves, or any other "actual innocent", was wrongfully convicted. No one. Ever.

 Innocents are more at risk without the death penalty (1).

10) Graves states: “So, if both (life without parole and the death penalty) are death sentences, why do we have to stoop so low to treat people like animals? Kill them like pigs and put poison in their vein when we can take the high road in society and let them die of natural causes?”. 

This is a typical anti death penalty response, with no evidence of reflection, at all.

 It is, quite simply, legally and morally, choosing that sanction which the judge or jury finds to be the most just under the circumstance. Well described by Sharmin but, unbelievably, never considered by Graves.

Most of us know that there is very distinct difference between being executed at age 38 and dying of natural causes after serving LWOP until age 78, the later preferred by about 100% of capital murderers. 

Graves never mentions the innocent murder victims.

 Innocents are more at risk without the death penalty (1).

11) "Experts say (that LWOP is) one reason why the number of death sentences in America has plummeted 84% in the last 20 years. From 311 sentences in 1995 to 49 in 2015." 

As a rule, that would be "anti death penalty" experts, just trying to fit their narrative. 

Likely, the greatest cause of the drop in death sentences is a 70-80% drop in capital murders. 

Texas, for example: 

The Texas Life Without Parole (LWOP) law went into effect September 1, 2005.

I am unaware of any capital cases, where the death penalty was an option, whereby the capital murder occurred after 8/31/2005 and which were resolved between 9/1/2005 -12/31/2005, based upon the new LWOP law.

There was a 69% drop in Texas death sentences, from 48 in 1999 to 15 in 2005, PRIOR to LWOP having any effect on death sentences.

The first year that the LWOP law could have had an effect on death sentences was in 2006 with 11.

In 2007, death sentences rose by 36%. 

With almost total consistency, death sentences averaged a little over 10 per year from 2006-2014, just adding a 10% drop, to 79%, from the 69% decline of 1999-2005, with that 10% being but an additional small drop which can, easily, just be seen as part of a 15 year (1999-2014)  downward trend, unaffected by LWOP.

Death sentences dropped in 2015 and 2016, to 2 and 4, respectively, 10 years after the LWOP law. There is no reason to suggest that LWOP was the reason for those numbers, after a 10 year wait. 

It is important to note that juries were not allowed to be told that the previous life sentences in Texas had parole eligibility. 

Texas had a 55% drop in murders (71% drop in rate),  37% drop in robberies (60% drop in rate), from 1991-2014.

Robbery/murder is the most common death eligible crime, which may have dropped 70-80%, or more, during that period, which may account for the entire drop.

We have also had a series of US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decisions, which has contributed to that drop, in Texas and nationally, as well as 6 states that have repealed the death penalty option, during that period, with a national effect.

The LWOP effect, if any, appears to be tiny.

12) A great finish by Sharmin: 

“Is it possible you want the death penalty, more than we need the death penalty? Does it make you feel justice was done?” David asked. 

“Depending on the case, I sure do,” Sharmin answered. 

“But does everybody need it?” David asked. 

“I think it’s a good thing to have,” said Sharmin. 

“You want it, do we all need this?” David asked, further pressing the question. 

“I believe it’s needed in our society and our justice system,” she answered. “Used the correct way, done the right way, you need to be held to a higher punishment for the higher crimes,” she finished.


 1) The Death Penalty: Saving More Innocent Lives