Skip to comments.Freeze on executions is urged - group says 2-year study reveals inequities; supporters disagree
Posted on 02/21/2003 2:37:37 AM PST by MeekOneGOP
Freeze on executions is urged
Voters group says 2-year study reveals inequities; supporters disagree
AUSTIN - The League of Women Voters on Thursday called for a moratorium on executions in Texas, saying that its two-year study of capital punishment found an inequitable system in need of reform.
"It is time for the state of Texas to re-examine the capital punishment system," league president Carolie Mullan said.
Ms. Mullan said the study showed that black offenders disproportionately receive the death penalty and that the law does not safeguard against the execution of the mentally retarded. The study also showed that those who can afford their own lawyers fare much better.
"We believe there are certain classes of defendants that are treated unfairly under the law," said Julia Marsden of Austin, who heads the league's advocacy efforts.
Some victims rights groups called the league's stance misguided.
"Their two-year study doesn't hold a candle to 30 years of appellate court review," said Dianne Clements, president of the Houston-based Justice for All.
Ms. Mullan said the study was carefully and independently undertaken after league delegates at the 2001 state convention decided to explore the issue. The league, with 3,000 members and 33 chapters in Texas, is a nonpartisan group that advocates that residents get involved in government.
She said the league's specific calls for changes won consensus support among its members, who were nevertheless divided on the death penalty.
In addition to the moratorium, the league is calling for prohibiting the execution of the mentally ill and retarded and those younger than 18 when they committed crimes; providing life without parole as an option to juries in capital cases; and requiring the Board of Pardons and Parole to hold public meetings.
Ms. Marsden said she realizes that these positions are not particularly popular at the state Capitol.
"The majority of legislators are not there yet in terms of making any changes. Part of our advocacy is educating the members about why we think they should support these bills and make these decisions," she said.
Ms. Mullan of Lubbock said the league worked for years on child care, land use and health issues that won similar consensus support.
"Our way of working at it is to nibble away wherever we can make some progress," she said. "We never give up."
Ms. Clements said she objects to a moratorium because it "will do nothing but benefit the guilty by causing delay, by creating additional appellate issues, by clouding the facts of the crime and by clouding the guilt of defendants who are convicted capital murderers."
She also said the trial system is fair, despite the league study showing that blacks make up 12 percent of the general population and 41 percent of the offenders on death row.
"We don't have a system that is systemically or individually biased on race. We have a system that systemically and individually prosecutes capital murderers based on the crimes they commit," Ms. Clements said.
She also said she opposed a penalty option of life without parole because it is an attempt to steer juries away from assessing death, which she said is an appropriate penalty supported by a majority of Texans.
The study and the league's findings did garner support from Stand Down, a group that favors a moratorium and study of the death penalty.
"It should be abundantly clear to anyone who examines our application of the death penalty that Texas has a broken system," said Stand Down spokesman Steve Hall.
We need everyone to call their state senators and congressman today and tell them to defeat S348 and its companion H590 (Bills that, if passed, will create life without parole in Texas. While it sounds nice, it does NOT keep a convicted murderer from killing again while inside prison. Only one sentence keeps killers from recommitting with a 100% success rate, and that is the death penalty, in which these bills are an attempt to undermine.).
You are also urged to tell them NO to H357, which is designed to thwart the will of the people by creating a nonsensical and unnecessary moriatorium on the death penalty.
Tell your neighbors, tell your friends. These bills must be defeated.
In the name of justice and crime victims everywhere.
Non-partisan, my rear end! Virtually every position taken by the "League" on issues other than getting women to vote aligns exactly with the liberal left.
Opposition to the death penalty is just one example.
"Social Policy--Promote social and economic justice, secure equal rights for all, achieve universal health care coverage at reasonable cost, promote the well being of children, and combat discrimination, poverty and violence."
"Gun Control-Protect the health and safety of citizens through limiting the accessibility and regulating the ownership of handguns and semi-automatic assault weapons."
"Natural Resources-Promote an environment beneficial to life through the protection and wise management of natural resources in thepublic interest by recognizing the interrelationships of air quality, energy, land use, waste management and water resources."
"Also, The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that natural resources should be managed as interrelated parts of life-supporting ecosystems. Resources should be conserved and protected to assure their future availability. Pollution of these resources should be controlled in order to preserve the physical, chemical and biological integrity of ecosystems and to protect public health."
Go to the League of Women Voters website for more examples:
Nonetheless I've come to the conclusion that the death penalty should be a rare event, to be used when the state is clearly doing somebody no favors keeping them around, or when somebody presents too much of a danger to keep around.
I don't really feel good about the idea anymore.
For one, the normal standard of American justice, guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, simply isn't good enough. The standard for capital punishment needs to be guilt beyond any doubt whatsoever, reasonable or otherwise.
For another, before I'd ever feel totally good about capital punishment again, we'd have to scrap our present adversarial system of courtroom procedures. In particular, there would have to be as much of a positive incentive for a DA to drop an investigation of an innocent person as there was for him to prosecute a guilty one, and a gigantic negative incentive to prosecute an innocent person. I'd favor a three strikes and you're out rule for DAs; three innocent verdicts within five yeas, and your career as a DA is over.
Good (liberal) choice to use the 12 percent of genneral population figure. The sentence wouldn't have sounded quite the same if it had started with "blacks committed 51 percent of all homicdes..."
Now, some might point out that women typically do not commit crimes that call for capital punishment. I don't care. Obviously, they don't look at crime percentages based on race before they make assertions like "blacks are overly represented on death row". They would like 12% of death row to be black -- no matter what the crime statistics say. Fine. I would like 50% of death row to be female, no matter what the gender-based crime stats are.
I love an egalitarian society!
Given all the appeals allowable, this is pretty much already the case. Hell, technicalities have resulted in perps who WERE guilty beyond ANY doubt getting off scott free. The system is already VERY HEAVILY weighted toward a finding of innocence. Sure, mistakes happen, and even under the rules you propose, they will STILL happen--but all we can do is the best we can. I would argue that it is already the case that letting GUILTY ones skate results in more overall deaths of innocents than what you propose.
For another, before I'd ever feel totally good about capital punishment again, we'd have to scrap our present adversarial system of courtroom procedures. In particular, there would have to be as much of a positive incentive for a DA to drop an investigation of an innocent person as there was for him to prosecute a guilty one, and a gigantic negative incentive to prosecute an innocent person. I'd favor a three strikes and you're out rule for DAs; three innocent verdicts within five yeas, and your career as a DA is over."
Uh, this doesn't make sense. You want the DA to drop investigations of "innocent" people but you want him fired if three such verdicst are given within five years?? Now, if you postulate three GUILTY verdicts OVERTURNED ON APPEAL, then what you propose might make some sense.
There has been a big freakout over the effects of DNA testing. They thought it would eliminate prime suspects in one or two percent of cases and it turned out to be more like 30 or 35 percent. Given the fact that a prime suspect in a felony usually goes to jail, that translates into some huge number of people sitting around in prisons for stuff they didn't do.
Again, if there's any question, you can maintain public safety by keeping the guy in prison until the question is resolved. You can't unhang somebody.
So how about those cases where there is incontrovertible DNA evidence that the perp is GUILTY?? Do you have a problem with executing THEM??
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