Another case where a criminal begs to avoid the death penalty

It is hard to understand how death penalty opponents can see all these murders begging not to be executed and not believe that the death penalty serves as a deterrent. This from CNN:

A former police officer convicted of murdering his girlfriend and their unborn child tearfully apologized to her family Monday in front of the jury that will decide whether he lives or dies.

Bobby Cutts Jr. weeps openly as his mother describes his childhood during a sentencing hearing.
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"It was a nightmare that will continue to haunt me for the rest of my days," said Bobby Cutts, Jr., 30, reading from a prepared statement at the penalty phase of his murder trial.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I'm asking you to spare my life." . . .



The problem with the claim that lethal injection for the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment

While the chief justice’s skepticism was not unexpected, Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s response to Mr. Verrilli’s argument was a surprise. Justice Breyer told Mr. Verrilli he had read scientific articles supporting the one-drug protocol that were cited in the briefs filed by the inmates and had found them confusing.

“So I’m left at sea,” he said. “I understand your contention. You claim that this is somehow more painful than some other method. But which? And what’s the evidence for that? What do I read to find it?”

“I ended up thinking, of course there is a risk of human error,” Justice Breyer continued. “There is a risk of human error generally where you’re talking about the death penalty, and this may be one extra problem, one serious additional problem. But the question here is, Can we say that there is a more serious problem here than with other execution methods?”

Often, such doubts about the quality of the evidence lead the court to send a case back to the lower courts for further factual development. Mr. Verrilli said that although the record was sufficiently clear for the justices to proceed, “it certainly would be a reasonable thing to do” to send the case back to the Kentucky courts, which rejected the challenge to the three-drug protocol without considering whether the availability of the single-drug alternative meant that inmates were being subjected to an unnecessary risk of pain. . . . .

The claim is that the first injection cannot be guaranteed to anesthetize the killer before the other drugs take effect. By this logic of requiring a guarantee, executions through a firing squad or hanging or electrocution would all have to be banned.

But the problem is actually even broader. We can't even guarantee the criminal's safety in prison. Could the criminal be injured? Could he be stabbed by another criminal? My own guess is that those arguing to end executions understand this problem and probably really hope that the case will be sent back to the lower court. Sending the case back to the lower court could be used to continue to put on hold executions in the US for years.

What about the claim that the second injection that paralyzes the killer before he is executed is unnecessary? I can think of several good reasons for it, but the primary one is why would you want the criminal making gestures and thrashing around during the execution?

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Supreme Court Takes on Another Death Penalty Case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court said on Friday it would decide whether the death penalty can be imposed for the crime of raping a child, expanding its review of how capital punishment is carried out in the United States.

The nation's highest court agreed to hear an appeal by a Louisiana man who is the only person in the United States on death row for a crime other than murder. He is arguing the death penalty for child rape violates the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment. . . .

There is an interesting economics point here that I wrote about in Freedomnomics. I think that the evidence strongly shows a deterrence effect from the death penalty, but the argument could be quite different for other crimes. If you already face the death penalty for rape, you might want to kill the victim to avoid witnesses. After all, what more can they do to you if you already face the death penalty? The reason that isn't clear is because committing what is considered an even worse crime will increase the probability of arrest and also increase the probability of being given the death penalty. The fact that this child rapist is the only person on death row thus makes it more likely that the possibility of the death penalty for raping a child did not appreciably increase the likelihood that he would have killed his victim.

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Op-ed on New Jersey Eliminating Its Death Penalty


Logical inconsistency in using the death penalty?

OK, the Supreme Court claims that whether the death penalty should only apply to those whose brains were sufficiently developed. But does this logic mean that men and women should face the death penalty at different ages?

Men and women display patterns of behavioral and cognitive differences that reflect varying hormonal influences on brain development

Personally to me just because brains are changing doesn't mean anything about the ability to understand right and wrong.

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Email on the Death Penalty

I received this email earlier today. While I normally receive a lot of these and I don't usually paste these types of emails (I like to stick to factual arguments), this one particularly got to me.

I just read your article about whether the death penalty is a deterent.
I just want to comment that , to me, it doesn't matter if it's a deterent or not.
The death penalty IS justice ( rightful. fair and deserved punishment ) to the murderer for what was done to the victim (s) and their family. Simple_ as_ that. But.. it also needs to be
implemented, not ignored or postponed.
Our 12 year old daughter was murdered by a man in 1981, who has been on Death Row (Cal.) for 25 years with no execution date in sight. He has free meals, Cable T.V. and better medical care than we do.
Justice, for us, has failed.




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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More Limits Coming On Death Penalty?

First it was the ABA this week, now yesterday the Supreme Court halts all executions by lethal injection. There are real concerns that this 7 to 2 vote does not give one a lot of comfort for the future:

Moments before a Mississippi prisoner was scheduled to die by lethal injection, the Supreme Court granted him a stay of execution on Tuesday evening and thus gave a nearly indisputable indication that a majority intends to block all executions until the court decides a lethal injection case from Kentucky next spring.

There were two dissenters, Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr., but neither they nor the majority gave reasons for their positions. Because only five votes are required for a stay of execution, it is not clear whether all the remaining seven justices supported it. . . .



Who says that criminals don't care about getting the death penalty


New Op-ed FoxNews.com: Death as Deterrence