Tweaking Capital Punishment

Recently, the state of Georgia executed Kelly Gissendaner while Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin issued a stay in the execution of Richard Glossip who lost his appeal before the Supreme Court in the 2015 term.  Thus far, there have been 22 executions in the United States this year and 1,416 since the Supreme Court gave the go-ahead to resume executions in 1976 after a brief moratorium.

Let me state up front that this writer is a believer in the death penalty.  It makes no sense to keep people alive for the length of their natural lives who committed heinous crimes resulting in the death of an innocent person.  I am not a supporter in the death penalty because it is a deterrent.  Several studies clearly show it is not.  Likewise, some of the states with the highest homicide rates per 100,000 population are death penalty states while many states with the lowest homicide rates lack the death penalty.  Instead, I view it in economic terms.

The anti-capital punishment Left will trot out study after study showing that life imprisonment is actually a cheaper option than the death penalty.  Unfortunately and conveniently they neglect to tell you why that is so.  It is because of a legal situation they created of appeal after appeal after appeal that not only prolongs the length of incarceration of those sentenced to death and the associated incarceration costs, but also drives up the legal costs.  Looking at the 22 executions this year, those people spent an average 16.6 years on death row before meeting their fate.  Imagine the cost savings if that length of time was reduced.  Take away the legal costs and it makes no sense to claim that “life imprisonment is cheaper than capital punishment.”

Without getting into the many purported arguments against capital punishment- the potential of innocence, racial imbalances, the morality, the costs, the ethical considerations, history, etc.- and rebutting those arguments, there are certain instances where the imposition of the death penalty needs reform.  Of course no one- liberal or conservative- wants to see the truly innocent sentenced to death.  But, if we look at those who were executed this year, only one asserted their absolute innocence in the crime committed.  There were others who asserted their “innocence” based on their mental state- that they suffered from an intellectual or developmental disability.  The Supreme Court has been clear that states cannot execute the mentally ill or the mentally retarded based on long-standing tenets of criminal law.  And perhaps the Supreme Court or Congress has been silent in this area leaving states great leeway in determining “mental incapacitation” and that needs to be addressed.

But, most importantly we need to remember that there are actual victims of these acts with surviving families and they are often the most forgotten actors in many of these cases.  Consider the following people executed that the Left wants to keep alive:

  • Roderick Nunley- kept alive for 15 years in Missouri for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a 15-year-old victim;
  • David Zink- kept alive for 11 years in Missouri who in a fit of road rage, kidnapped, raped and slit the throat of his 19-year-old victim while tied to a tree in a cemetery;
  • Derrick Charles- kept alive for 12 years in Texas for killing his ex-girlfriend, mother and grandfather.  After bashing in the head of the girlfriend, he raped her mother as she lay dying;
  • Walter Storey- kept alive for 24 years in Missouri after killing a special ed teacher after breaking into her home in search of drug money;
  • Andrew Prieto- kept alive for 20 years in Texas for killing three people with various objects including ice picks and screwdrivers;
  • Charles Warner- kept alive for 17 years in Oklahoma for the rape and murder of an 11-month-old;
  • John Kormondy- kept alive for 21 years in Florida for the home invasion murder of a husband whose wife was repeatedly gang raped as he lay dying.

This is a partial list of the scum of the earth the Left wants your tax dollars to keep alive and “cared” for the remainder of their natural lives.  In many of these cases, despite the decades of appeals and delays, the accused confessed their crimes before being executed, some in graphic detail.  It is not revenge; it is commonsense.

However, the one thing I find disturbing in the Glossip and the Gissendaner cases is that in both instances, neither of these people sentenced to death picked up a gun, baseball bat, pipe, tire iron, knife, ice pick or screwdriver.  In both cases, they were the persons who “ordered,” “paid for,” or otherwise suggested the death of another.  In both cases, it was another person who actually did the deed.  In both cases, the actual murderer entered into a plea agreement to avoid the death penalty.

It is these cases of the imposition of the death penalty with which this writer disagrees.  If the evidence is not there to sentence the actual killer to death, then both actors should get life in prison.  Consider this fact: of all the people murdered by the Mafia in their history in the United States, in only one instance the person ordering or paying for those murders was sentenced to death in a court of law.  There is considerably more blood on the hands of Mafia leaders, yet they receive life in prison, not the death penalty.

It is too late in the case of Kelly Gissendaner and the state of Georgia cannot be held at fault.  They were simply acting through on the law as it is currently applied in that state, as in Oklahoma.  But, it is not too late to commute the sentence of Richard Glossip to life without parole while the person who actually bludgeoned the victim sits in prison for the rest of their life.  This area of the law needs to be reformed.

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