Friday, March 30, 2012

The Death Penalty: Saving More Innocent Lives

Dudley Sharp

A. Innocence

Of all human endeavors that put innocents at risk, is there one with a better record of sparing innocent lives than the US death penalty? Unlikely.

1) "The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents"

2) "Opponents in capital punishment have blood on their hands", Dennis Prager, 11/29/05,

3) "A Death Penalty Red Herring: The Inanity and Hypocrisy of Perfection", Lester Jackson Ph.D.,

B. The false innocence claims by anti death penalty activists are many, blatant and legendary

Some examples:

4) "The Innocent Executed: Deception & Death Penalty Opponents"

5) The 130 (now 164) death row "innocents" scam

6) "Troy Davis & The Innocent Frauds of the anti death penalty lobby",

7) "Cameron Todd Willingham: Another Media Meltdown", A Collection of Articles

8)  "Carlos DeLuna: Another False Innocence Claim?"

9) "(Carlos DeLuna) "At the Death House Door" Can Rev. Carroll Pickett be trusted?"

10) "Exoneration Inflation: Justice Scalia’s Concurrence in Kansas v. March", by Ward Campbell, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, California Department of Justice, p 49, The Journal of the Institute for the Advancement of Criminal Justice, Issue 2, Summer 2008

11) "The innocence tactic: Unreliable studies and disinformation", reports By United States Congress, Senate, 107th Congress, 2d Session, Calender no 731, Report 107-315. The Innocence Protection Act of 2002, (iv) The innocence tactic: Unreliable studies and disinformation, p 65-69

12) "The Innocent and the Shammed", Joshua Marquis, Published in New York Times, 1/26/2006

13) "The Myth Of Innocence"­, Joshua Marquis, pu­blished in the Journal of Criminal Law & Criminolog­y - 3/31/2005, Northweste­rn University School of Law, Chicago, Illinois

14) Sister Helen Prejean & the death penalty: A Critical Review"

15.  The Death Penalty: Do Innocents Matter?

C. Deterrence

Of course the death penalty deters.

All prospects of a negative outcome deter some. It is a truism. The death penalty, the most severe of criminal sanctions, is the least likely of all criminal sanctions to violate that truism.

1) 24 recent studies finding for deterrence, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation

2) "Deterrence & the Death Penalty: A Reply to Radelet and Lacock"

3) "Death Penalty, Deterrence & Murder Rates: Let's be clear"

4) This is out of date, but corrects a number of the misconceptions about deterrence."Death Penalty and Deterrence"

5) "The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents"

D. Of course the death penalty deters. A review of the debate

Reason, common sense, history and the facts support that the death penalty deters and deters more than lesser sanctions.

1) Anti death penalty folks say that the burden of proof is on those who say that the death penalty deters. Untrue. It is a rational truism that all potential negative outcomes deter some - there is no exception. It is the burden of death penalty opponents to prove that the death penalty, the most severe of criminal sanctions, is the only prospect of a negative outcome that deters none. They cannot. NO DETERRENCE STUDY FINDS THAT THE DEATH PENALTY DETERS NONE. THEY CANNOT.

2) There have been 24 recent studies finding for death penalty deterrence. A few of those have been criticized. The criticism has, itself been rebutted and/or the criticism doesn't negate no. 1 or nos. 3-10.

3) Anti death penalty columnists Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune states, "No one argues that the death penalty deters none." "Will someone bent on murder turn from the crime when he contemplates the fact that he may be executed for it? Obviously that will happen."(1). More precisely, it "does" happen and always has. Yes, some do argue, beyond reason, that the death penalty deters none. But Zorn is correct, the issue is not "Does the death penalty deter?". It does. The only issue is to what degree. Therefore, anti death penalty efforts must contend with the reality that sparing murderers does sacrifice more innocent lives , by reduced deterrence, lesser incapacitation and lesser due process, and executing murderers does save more innocent lives, by enhanced incapacitation, enhanced deterrence and enhanced due process.

4) The evidence is expressly clear and overwhelming that death is feared more than life and life is preferred over death, not just for murderers facing death, but by a majority of all of us.

When 99.7% of murderers, who are subject to the death penalty, tell us they fear death more than life (2) and when about 99.9% of the rest of us (excluding the terribly ill) tell us they prefer life over death, it is a certainty that potential murderers, overwhelmingly feel the same, and thus fear execution more than life.

What we fear the most deters the most.

Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life. No surprise. Would a more rational group, those who choose not to murder, also share in that overwhelming fear of death and be deterred by the prospects of execution? Of course - just as we all do.

5) There are a number of known cases of individual deterrence, those potential murderers who have stated that they were prevented from committing murder because of their fear of the death penalty. Individual deterrence exists.

6) General deterrence exists because individual deterrence cannot exist without it.

7) Even the dean of anti death penalty academics, Hugo Adam Bedau, agrees that the death penalty deters .. . but he doesn't believe it deters more than a life sentence (3). Number 4, specifically, and Nos. 5, 6 and 10 provide anecdotal and rational evidence that the death penalty is a greater deterrent than a life sentence. Bedau has not and cannot rebut that. In addition, the 28 studies finding for deterrence, find that the death penalty is an enhanced deterrent over other sentences.

8) All criminal sanctions deter. If you doubt that, what do you think would happen if we ended all criminal sanctions? No rational person has any doubt. Some would have us, irrationally, believe that the most severe sanction, execution, is the only sanction which doesn't deter.

9) If we execute and there is no deterrence, we have justly punished a murderer and have prevented that murderer from ever harming/murdering, again. If we execute and there is deterrence, we have those benefits, plus we have spared even more additional innocent lives via deterrence. If we don't execute and there is deterrence, we have spared murderers at the cost of more innocent deaths, via the loss of a greater deterrent, as well as by lesser incapacitation.

10) Overwhelmingly, people prefer life over death and fear death more than life.


"If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I would much rather risk the former. This, to me, is not a tough call."

John McAdams - Marquette University/Department of Political Science


(1) "Death penalty and deterrence -- the argument from anecdote", Eric Zorn, Change of Subject page, Chicago Tribune,4/23/2011,

(2) About 99.7% of those murderers who are subject to the death penalty do everything they can to receive a lesser sentence, in pre trial, plea bargains, trial, in appeals and in clemency/commutation proceedings. Only about 1/3 of all murderers who have a death penalty trial receive that sanction, meaning 2/3 receive a sentence less than life, as they had hoped and even more murderers plea bargained to a sentence less than death, pre trial. Only 1.7% of those sentenced to death "volunteer" for executions by waiving appeals - 98.3% do not.  "LIFE: MUCH PREFERRED OVER EXECUTION",

(3) "An Abolitionist's Survey of the Death Penalty in America Today", Hugo Adam Bedau, Chapter 2, within Debating the death penalty: should America have capital punishment? : the experts on both sides make their case, editors Hugo Adam Bedau, Paul G. Cassell, Oxford University Press, 2004. SHARP REVIEW: AN EXCELLENT BOOK PRESENTING BOTH SIDES.

Related Issues:


99.7% of murderers tells us "Give me life, not execution"

 See sections C and D within
The Death Penalty: Saving More Innocent Lives

Innocents More At Risk Without Death Penalty

"Death Penalty, Deterrence & Murder Rates: Let's be clear"

Victim's Voices - These are the murder victims
Dudley Sharp, e-mail, 713-622-5491, Houston, Texas

Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.

A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.