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‘study’ Category



Both Sides Agree System is Broken

Today’s Nashville City Paper featured an excellent article written by John Rodgers reporting from the Promptness Sub-Committee meeting of the Committee to Study the Administration of the Death Penalty. You can read more about the sub-committee meetings in previous blog posts. Read the Nashville City Paper article by clicking HERE.

The article keys in on the lengthiness associated with the death penalty process and the conversation that long time frame elicits amongst proponents and opponents. Important stakeholders, the family members of murder victims, share varying viewpoints when it comes to the death penalty. While it seems that proponents are in favor of capital punishment due to a desire to see such punishment meted out and to receive a sense of finality, they are growing skeptical of a system that takes decades to reach fruition.

“Verna Wyatt, the executive director of You Have the Power, a victim’s advocacy group, said making the families of victims wait oftentimes decades for the killer of their loved one to be put to death is “re-victimizing the victim … for years and years.”

“I would like to say to Tennesseans — if you don’t think the death penalty is an appropriate punishment, then let’s not give it out because giving out a sentence of death, the victims families wait forever to get their justice,” Wyatt said. “So if Tennesseans don’t think that this is an appropriate punishment — then we shouldn’t be giving it out. We shouldn’t’t even be asking for it.”

I believe that Wyatt’s sentiments are right on target. The state is making a promise to families that it simply cannot keep. Another approach that some victims’ families take is the one chosen by the Strobel family. Charlie Strobel’s mother was murdered and as opponents of the death penalty, Strobel and his family asked that prosecutors not to seek the death penalty for the murderer.

“Strobel’s mother was murdered and he said his family received closure quicker because they told prosecutors they did not want the killer executed.

Instead, three life sentences without parole were handed down, Strobel said.

“It just is awfully, awfully painful to hear that people are stuck waiting for a justice that doesn’t close anything,” Strobel said, adding that the state should help families understand the appellate process better.

In other Tennessee death penalty news, the US Supreme Court has taken the case of EJ Harbison on “whether poor death row inmates seeking mercy from state officials have a right to lawyers paid for by federal taxpayers.” Read more about this by clicking HERE.

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Amended Bill Passes Senate Judiciary

Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee passed an amended version of the death penalty study extension bill, extending the life of the Committee to Study the Administration of the Death Penalty for two months through the end of 2008. The original extension bill would have extended the Committee’s life for a full year until October 2009.

Senator Mark Norris of Memphis proposed the bill’s amendment. Ultimately the amended bill passed with “yes” votes from Senators Doug Jackson, Jim Kyle, Beverly Marrero, John Wilder, Diane Black and Mark Norris. Senators Jamie Woodson, Mae Beavers, and Paul Stanley passed on the vote.

The District Attorneys’ Conference has been resisting any extension of this Study Committee as its leadership claimed that the Committee was stacked with abolitionists. Unfounded and unfair accusations have been made by the DA’s Conference’s Executive Director, Wally Kirby, in media outlets throughout the state concerning the work and membership of this Committee. In fact, within the Judiciary meeting yesterday, Senator Kyle raised the possibility of disbanding the Committee and reappointing a whole different committee. However, Senator Jackson quickly stated that the current Committee is a fair minded and talented group of people who should be allowed to finish the work that they started. Thankfully, the majority of the Judiciary agreed.

The bill must now pass the full House and Senate, and we are hopeful that it will.

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A Definitive Cost Study

When the presidential nominees give their speeches after a primary has been completed, they typically begin by thanking the state they are in. “Thank you Ohio.” “Thank you Iowa.” etc. etc. Today, I would like to say from Nashville, “Thank you Maryland.” The Abell Foundation, located in Baltimore, funded a definitive cost study conducted by the Urban Institue, “a national, nonpartisan research organization in Washington.”

The study concluded that the death penalty “has cost Maryland taxpayers at least $186 million more in prosecuting and defending capital murder cases over two decades than would have been spent without the threat of execution.” “The study estimates that the cost of reaching a single death sentence costs the state an average of $3 million, which is $1.9 million more than a non-death penalty case costs, even after factoring in the long-term costs of incarcerating convicted killers not sentenced to death.”

The article that covered the release of the study gets into greater detail about how these figures were determined. I found the methodology to be highly logical. I implore you to read the article by CLICKING HERE.

“Although groups in many death penalty states have analyzed the cost of such cases, the Urban Institute’s Maryland study is the first to statistically control for factors that might otherwise make a capital case more expensive,” said Andrew Davies, a researcher with the New York State Defenders Association, which in the 1980s completed the first such study. “The argument goes that … death penalty cases might be worse or more heinous cases, so that even if they weren’t death penalty cases, they still would be more expensive,” he said. “But in this study, they’ve isolated the pure effect of the death penalty on inflating the cost of cases.” I’d also like to point out that the study did not include “costs associated with federal court proceedings in state capital cases.”

Studies like these are paramount in showing citizens and their leaders that the death penalty is a costly and ineffective public policy. Maryland has come very close to getting abolition legislation on their legislature’s floor in the past. This study should help that effort out significantly. This study also reaffirms my annoyance that the death penalty is justified even though it is a terrible public policy. We must place the same magnifying glass on the death penalty as we place on all other forms of public policy.

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