Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A very interesting argument in favor of the death penalty

The Captain is opposed to the death penalty, but he published this letter from a prosecutor arguing that the death penalty does have a deterrent effect:

Suppose we have a career criminal with a long record of violent felonies, what we in California would call a 'three-striker', who knows that he will be sent to prison for the rest of his life if he is ever caught committing a new offense. When he goes to rob the local convenience store, he doesn't want to hurt anyone - he just wants the money. But he also knows that, as there is no death penalty, he will face the exact same punishment (life imprisonment) whether or not he kills the clerk, the only witness to his crime. He would be a fool not to do so. If he happens to bump into a police officer on the way out, he may as well kill him too - there is no extra charge, so to speak. If we somehow manage to catch the 'three-striker' and place him on trial, it will be in his best interest to sabatoge his own trial by killling witnesses, jurors, prosecutors or judges. After all, if we can't convict him, he goes free. (Remember that scene from the movie Traffic, where the druglord walks?) And even if we manage to successfully prosecute him for one of these new murders, he will still only face the same life sentence that he was sure to get in the first place.
That's the numb of the letter, although there's more. The Captain also adds that a reader emailed in the fact that, an Atlantic Month article repeats a a Brookings Institute study to the effect that "each execution deters eighteen potential murders." I wonder if the 2000 people who camped out at SQ for Tookie's demise know this -- or if they care. I'll also add one random thought to the prosecutor's point about it being in the robber's best interest to kill witnesses, because there's no increased penalty for doing so. In London, they made it illegal for law abiding citizens to use guns to defend themselves against intruders in their own homes. England also has no death penalty. The result has been a huge increase in both robberies and robberies ending in murder in London. The robber has no risk going into the house, because the law abiding home owner can't protect himself, and he has no risk going out of the house because he's killed the witnesses. Is that really how we want to end up?