THE Supreme Court on Tuesday effectively halted U.S. executions via lethal injection until it can rule on a challenge to the constitutionality of a particu lar execution "cocktail."

This is just the latest example of the whittling away of the death penalty - the courts have already cut executions by over a third since 1999. But this latest suspension of executions is likely to demonstrate yet again that the death penalty deters crime. . . . .

Some comments are coming in on this piece. See this by Art DeVany, Clayton Cramer, Free Republic, and Prairie Pundit.

I got this email from someone who read my piece.

First, I accuse Mr. Lott of no less than intellectual dishonesty with regards to some of the statistics he uses. To begin, the sentence "while African-Americans have committed 53 percent of all murders since 1980 in which the killer's race is known, they have accounted for only 38 percent of the executions." While at first glance, this seems to indicate that racial bias is non-existent in death penalty cases, one must remember that murder in itself, while necessary, is not sufficient for the death penalty to be handed down. Thus, the total number of murders is not a measure of the number of cases being considered for the death penalty. In fact, because the circumstances involved are relied upon almost exclusively (ie. the victim, prior history, etc.) when deciding whether or not to hand down the death penalty, simply citing these numbers does not tell the whole story in the least. . . . the author conveniently forgets that not every state has the death penalty. For instance, Michigan, New York (from 1978-94, well within the time that this statistic draws from), Massachusetts, as well as the District of Columbia do not currently execute anyone. These states (and district) all have some of the highest black populations in the country. . . .

The problem is that the gap between blacks and their share of executions and murders has gotten larger over time. This was originally in the op-ed, but got cut for space constraints. (The numbers before 1980 are pretty meaningless because even when an execution took place, there was only one execution a year.)

Further, your piece misses the point in its entirety. It is deceitful to say that the Court "effectively halted U.S. executions via lethal injection," because it does not tell the whole story. I'm sure you know that the issue at hand is whether the lethal injection itself constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment" . . .

There are two points. 1) The point of the piece was to address some of the general arguments that have been presented agains the death penalty. 2) There are so many issues that one can get into in 700 words. I figured most people know this claim you point to and can judge for themselves whether lethal injection is so cruel.

This is simply a temporary stop-gap measure designed to ensure that the constitution is not trampled. This case currently before the Supreme Court does not aim to question the constitutionality of the death penalty itself.

Does the moratorium increase the chances that the death penalty through lethal injection will be ended? If lethal injection is found to be "cruel," would hanging or a firing squad be cruel? In any case, does it then lower the cost of criminals committing murder?

Thus, not only is this piece intellectually dishonest, but the most extreme instance of a "jack story" that I can imagine. . . .

Thanks for you thoughtful comments. But I must confess that I don't know what "jack story" means.

A further discussion of these issues can be found in my book, Freedomnomics.

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