Monday, February 05, 2018

"The Penalty", a documentary

Rebuttal of "The Penalty", an anti death penalty documentary
Dudley Sharp

Fact Checking Required For All Sides

"The Penalty" is an anti death penalty documentary about the US death penalty. For those, unaware, documentaries can be, utter, fiction.

"The Penalty" looks at three death penalty cases, reviewed in 1, 2 and 3, below. The BOLD headings are the film's claim, followed, by my rebuttal or clarification.

1) Dennis McGuire's Botched Execution

McGuire's execution was not botched (1), which fuels justifiable skepticism for“The Penalty”.

There was (and is) zero indication that McGuire was conscious (1) or that his execution was, otherwise, botched (1),

"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." (1)

The very well known overdosing effects include respiratory distress (2), which is expected.

Regarding the drugs used in McGuire's execution: “By virtue of what (the drugs) do, they cause unconsciousness, and they inhibit pain,” said Dr. Howard Nearman, professor of anesthesiology at Case Western Reserve University (1).


False claims of "botched executions" are common (2) and, easily, rebutted (2).

My condolences for the loved ones of Joy Stewart, Kenny Stewart and unborn child Carl.

2)  Death Penalty: Bad for Families. The capital murder of Shelby Farah.

The death penalty was a huge benefit for Shelby Farah's family.

Shelby Farah was murdered in 2013. She was a cashier, who gave all the money to a robber, did everything he said and, then, he shot her 3 times, murdering her. He was a repeat offender, as about 70% of murderers are.

Shelby was a wonderful, generous 20 year old, as so, often, described by her mother, Darlene Farah.

Darlene opposed the death penalty because of the long trial and appeals time, which are not required, as detailed (3).

How did Darlene avoid the long trial and appeals time? The death penalty.

The case was resolved with a plea to life without parole (LWOP). No trial, no appeals.

There is, only, one way to get a plea to LWOP. You have to have the death penalty and it has to be a credible option in the case.

It was.

With no death penalty option, Darlene would have faced a trial with LWOP being the maximum sanction, with the potential of lifetime appeals with LWOP, something that Darlene did not acknowledge (4), and with the possibility of a lesser sanction given, if applicable, in the case.

If LWOP is the jurisdictions maximum sentence, the best plea deal would have been life with parole eligibility, often not an option, because of the horrors of the crime, thereby requiring a LWOP trial and appeals, causing much more time and trauma than a plea to LWOP, only possible with a death penalty option.

A prior district attorney had insisted upon seeking the death penalty in this case, but a newly elected DA agreed to the plea to LWOP, only possible with a credible death penalty option.

Darlene, also, believes that Shelby would have opposed the death penalty in her case, stating: " . . . more killing in no way honors my daughter’s memory or provides solace to my family." (4)

Choosing the most just sanction is the only way that a jury or judge can honor the victims, in court. In a capital, jury case, the jury will have the option between death and LWOP, choosing the most appropriate sanction, based within justice. Darlene did not detail how LWOP would honor Shelby, any more or less, (4) had a jury decided on that sanction, over the death penalty.

The important, additional, solace one gets from the death penalty/execution is that living murderers harm and murder, again, in prison, after escape and after improper release and executed murderers do not, a very big deal for those who have, already, lost a loved one to murder (5, 6).

Additionally, the enhanced deterrent effect of the death penalty, over LWOP, has never been negated and, never, can be (7).

We all know that life is preferred over death and death is feared more than life, especially when you are a healthy 28 year old, the average age of capital murderers.

What we prefer more, deters less. What we fear more, deters more.

Even non deterred murderers, confirm that - a bit late for them and their murdered victims  -  nearly 100% of all capital murderers do all they can, in pre trial, trial, in appeals and commutation proceedings to avoid the death penalty and get a life sentence. You'll notice, there is never a plea bargain to a death sentence.


Darlene is unaware that the reason there is "geographical disparity" in death penalty application is because about 2.7% of counties have the majority of violent crimes. Again, basic for the death penalty and all other violent crimes - not a disparity, but proper application.

My condolences for the loved ones of Shelby.

3)  The wrongful conviction of Damon Thibodeaux

Thibodeaux spent 15 years on death row and was released in 2012, after the prosecutor found Thibodeaux 's confession unreliable. Thibodeaux confessed to the rape and murder of his 14 years old cousin, Chrystal Champagne.

Thibodeaux has been trying to get compensated for his 15 years on death row. So far, that has not been resolved. Thibodeaux has been unable to establish proof of  his actual innocence for nearly 22 years, since the 1996 rape/murder.  Proof of actual innocence is the standard for getting compensated, as well detailed, here (3).  Nothing has progressed since 

So, we'll just have to wait and see if his proof of actual innocence is presented and established, which has not occurred, for 22 years.

False claims of  "exonerated" and "innocent" are common (8) and, easily, rebutted (8).

My condolences for the loved ones of Crystal Champagne.

The following rebuts other issues brought up within "The Penalty" and/or other claims made by those associated with "The Penalty":

4) “One For Ten,”  is the previous anti death penalty "documentary" by this same crew, whereby the title represents that for every 10 executions, there is 1 death row exoneration.

This reflects the, alleged, near 10 to 1 ratio of the, now, about 1470 executions and 161 death row "exonerations".

Complete, utter nonsense, with the constant anti death penalty deception being this:

For over 20 years, the anti death penalty folks have redefined both "innocent" and "exonerated", as if they had redefined lie as truth (8), and then stuffed a bunch of cases into those fraudulent definitions which, now, number 161, of which 70-83% are unfounded claims, as detailed (8). When I was, still, anti death penalty, it took less than 5 minutes, of fact checking, to discover those fraudulent definitions.

Possibly 37, or 0.4%, of the 8200 sentenced to death since 1976, may have proof of actual innocence. All have been released, but one, who died on death row. (8), as he would have, serving life. 

The correct math is that there might be some 37 death row inmates with provable, actual innocence, out of about 8200 of those sentenced to death, or about 1 for 220.

5) Death penalty problems

The problems that "The Penalty" and crew attribute to the death penalty are either false (9) or are not the fault of the death penalty, but those who manage it, which includes Governors, Attorney Generals, legislators and those who are the case managers – the judges (10).

For example, Virginia has executed 112 murderers, since 1976, within 7 years of full appeals (11). Obviously, if Virginia can do it, all states can, if, responsibly, managed. (10,11 ).

Responsible management overcomes one of Darlene Farah's objections.

6) The Death Penalty Doesn't Provide Closure

Of course, execution is closure. It is closure of the legal process, found as just, by the overwhelming percentage of murder victim survivors (5) and it prevents that murderer from ever haring anyone again – a very big deal for many of those survivors (6, 7).

Of course, execution cannot bring closure to the emotional and psychological challenges of those who have lost loved ones to murder. No sanction does that nor are they expected to.

7) Clemency for Raymond Tibbetts (12)

There is no case for the Governor granting clemency.

Tibbetts was convicted of the aggravated murders of Judith Sue Crawford, Tibbets' wife, and Fred Hicks. Hicks was sixty-seven years old and suffered from emphysema. Crawford was his live-in caretaker.

Tibbetts, who had married Crawford just over a month earlier, also lived in the house.

On November 6, 1997, Hicks’s sister, Joan Hicks Landwehr, arrived at Hicks’s home in Cincinnati to meet him for lunch. After getting no answer at the door and seeing Hicks’s car missing from its usual parking space, Landwehr entered the home with her spare key. 

Landwehr went to a second-floor living room and found Hicks’s dead body slumped in a chair. Landwehr immediately called 911. Landwehr noticed that her brother’s chest and stomach were bloody and that his right pants pocket, where Hicks usually kept his money, was turned inside out.

When Cincinnati police officers responded a short time later, they found Hicks with a tube still connecting his nose to a nearby oxygen tank. Two knives protruded from Hicks’s chest, a third knife protruded from his back, and the broken blade of a fourth knife was also in his back. Officers found additional knives and a knife sheath near Hicks. A butcher block used to store knives lay behind Hicks’s chair. Deputy coroner Daniel Schultz later determined that Hicks died as a result of multiple stab wounds to his chest that punctured Hicks’s heart, lungs, and aorta. Hicks did not have any defensive wounds.

Officers found Crawford lying dead on the floor of a third-floor room, covered with a sheet. 

Crawford had been brutally beaten; her head was cracked open and lay in a pool of blood. 

Pieces of Crawford’s brain were lying on the floor next to her head. Crawford had also been stabbed several times, with one knife still stuck in her neck. Crawford also had a broken left arm, which Dr. Schultz characterized as a probable result of her attempt to ward off blows. 

Police found a bloodstained baseball bat and several knives near Crawford’s body. Dr. Schultz concluded that Crawford died of multiple skull fractures and that at least nine of her stab wounds were inflicted after her death. In all, Crawford had been struck at least four times in the head with blunt-force blows and sustained stab wounds to her back, lungs, chest, arm, shoulder, and neck.

8) Hank Skinner is Innocent

Hank Skinner, Guilty as Always

More to come

1)  The (Imagined) Horror of Dennis McGuire's Execution

3)  For compensation, former Death Row inmate Damon Thibodeaux must prove innocence, state reiterates, July 18, 2014,

4) "My Daughter's Killer Should Not Get the Death Penalty", By DARLENE FARAH, TIME, February 19, 2016,

5)  95% Death Penalty Support by Loved Ones of Capital Murder Victims
8)  a. The Innocent Frauds: Standard Anti Death Penalty Strategy
   b.  An Open Fraud in the Death Penalty Debate: How Death Penalty Opponents Lie
        The "Innocent", the "Exonerated" and Death Row:
 c.  The 4.1% "Innocent" on Death Row: More Nonsense

9)  The Death Penalty: Fair and Just


The Death Penalty: Justice & Saving More Innocents

10)  Judges Responsible For Grossly Uneven Executions

11) See Virginia within

12)  Moritz alumnus featured in new documentary “The Penalty”, By Ghezal Barghouty, The Lantern,  January 24, 2018,