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The Death Penalty Gets the Death Penalty

October 23, 2009

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When 7-year-old Somer Thompson disappeared on her way home from school in Orange Park, Florida, earlier this week, officials were hopeful that she would be found safe, and mobilized a massive search for the little girl. Alas, it was not to be, as the child’s mangled body was found on Wednesday in a Georgia garbage dump.

A devastated Deina Thompson, Somer’s mother, went on camera and issued a warning to her daughter’s killer, who remains at large:

I hope they get you and I hope they make you pay for a long, long time. You don’t take from somebody. You didn’t just take her from me. You took her from my family, you took her from all these people. And you don’t do this to a little baby and put my baby in the trash like she’s nothing. That’s not OK; this is not OK.

“Whoever did this,” exclaimed one Florida resident upon hearing news of the gruesome find, “deserves the same treatment.”

And yet, the child predator who killed Somer, when caught, may never even face the death penalty. In fact, there may no longer be any crime considered heinous enough to have it administered.

Have we finally found the one perfect, irrefutable moral argument against capital punishment?

Well, no actually.

The death penalty will probably be abolished for an altogether different reason: it is deemed to be too expensive.

A new study, cited by Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! network, says that the U.S. “can no longer afford to continue carrying out the death penalty.” Quoting from the website of a group calling itself “the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC),” Goodman reported that due to the recession, states and local governments are facing budget crises and “would benefit financially by replacing capital punishment with lifelong prison terms.”

The DPIC report claims that the death penalty has led to $2 billion in costs since 1976 that wouldn’t otherwise have been incurred had the harshest punishment been life in prison.

Well then, since it’s probably a safe bet to assume that a bailout of the criminal justice system by President Barack Obama is nowhere on the horizon, Somer’s killer, and all of the killers that will come after him, will have nothing to worry about as far as paying the ultimate price for their crimes.

Will the savings be worth it?

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18 Comments
  1. Anthony Damato permalink
    October 23, 2009 3:15 am

    It’s only money. A 2 billion dollar expense since 1976, 33 years, is not shocking. Considering money is printed with nothing to back it these days, I can only see this as another scheme to eliminate the death penality.

    Suppose one of these “lifers” decides he has nothing to loose and puts a shank into a guards throat? Or what about the thought of these prisioners in their cell with a TV, books, use of the recreational facilities, and other enjoyments ,while their victims and victim family members suffer?

    What is the cost of that? Some cases cry out for the ultimate penalty.

  2. Wayne permalink
    October 23, 2009 6:49 am

    I have to admit that I don’t follow the logic in the thinking of Amy Goodman as shown by this: “due to the recession, states and local governments are facing budget crises and “would benefit financially by replacing capital punishment with lifelong prison terms.””

    How would the expense imposing a lifelong prison term be less expensive than imposing a just sentence of capital punishment?

    • October 23, 2009 7:23 am

      “How would the expense imposing a lifelong prison term be less expensive than imposing a just sentence of capital punishment?”

      The legal costs of the appeals in all death penalty cases. We can’t just convict someone, sentence them to death, and then march them out to the hangman’s gallows. That would show a faith in human nature and human ability that could in no way be considered “conservative.”

      • Mark J. Koenig permalink
        October 23, 2009 7:30 am

        You’re correct David in the broad sense. Nevertheless it’s important to note that this system – which allows seemingly ENDLESS appeals on technical and other often frivolous grounds – that we’ve seen over the past 30 years in these cases has received much justified criticism from conservative political quarters.

        • October 23, 2009 7:43 am

          Agreed completely.

        • James Blair permalink
          October 24, 2009 7:53 pm

          Some limits have been put in place on the frivolous and endless appeals. The fact remains, however, that it is the appeals process, usually spurred on by those opposed to the death penalty, that has created the high cost of the death penalty,

          The automatic appeal that comes after the death sentence is decided is a good safeguard that I don’t have a problem with. The rest needs to be limited to things such as new evidence that truly make a difference in the case. Appeals based on procedural matters need to be taken care of in one appeal, not one item at a time (thus dragging out the appeals process).

  3. MaximumBob permalink
    October 23, 2009 7:10 am

    My own city of Indianapolis recently rejected the death penalty as an option for a guy who executed SEVEN members of the same family, including three small children, because it was too expensive.

    They dropped the option for a bench trial, and the guy was found guilty in less than a week. He’ll spend life in prison, but it won’t be much of punishment, considering the crime.

    Drop the death penalty in favor of harsh incarceration that will make the perp wish he was dead. Bed, toilet, sink. That’s it. No books, letters, TV or external communication.

  4. Geoff Brown permalink
    October 23, 2009 7:19 am

    Howdy, Wayne
    The theory on cost savings is that death penalty appeals actually cost more to pursue than fifty years of imprisonment would cost. There seems to be some truth to this, although $2 billion over about 30 years isn’t a valid amount to worry about. As a wino once said, “I spill more than that.”
    I doubt the savings would actually follow. If the maximum sentence is life without parole, I think we’re going to see two trends. First, the appeals will continue as they always have — why not? Second — this is starting to come up already — the oldest “LWOP” prisoners, as they age into their 70’s and 80’s, will become figures of pathos and their victims will be forgotten. There will be a movement to free them for “their last years”. No, thanks.

  5. Michelle permalink
    October 23, 2009 7:29 am

    The problem is that when these people get old or sick, the sympathy inevitably moves to them. See Susan Atkins… the woman maniacally cut a baby out of a mother! But she is ill and people are complaining of how she somehow deserves to die around loved ones?

  6. macko permalink
    October 23, 2009 8:48 am

    let the chinese have them or sub it out to india like everything else

  7. Joseph White permalink
    October 23, 2009 6:31 pm

    There is a way to save costs on the death penalty. I did a little research and 35 foot of rope costs $33.50. You can reuse that rope more than once, in fact, you could probably hang everyone on death row with it.

    A box of .45 acp ammo costs $33.00 for a box of 50.

    I believe that’s cheaper than the cost of electricity for old sparky, or even the lethal injection drugs.

  8. The Inquisitor permalink
    October 24, 2009 6:29 am

    A society that abandons the death penalty has lost its humanity.

  9. jac mills permalink
    October 24, 2009 9:10 am

    Capital punishment for capital crimes. One appeal, to be heard within six months of conviction and if conviction upheld, carry out the sentence within one week. And I feel lenient today!

  10. Gloria permalink
    October 24, 2009 9:17 am

    Matthew 24:11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.~~~And now that this Country, the Churches first! are throwing out the Book, G-D’s Word The Bible…the Constitution of the U.S is also being thrown out. So G-D will give us another book the Koran, there is already one in the White House since 9/11,and they have been celebrating Ramadan since 9/11. Sharia Law is not far behind. Prepare for Persecution, for loving The G-D and Author of The Book the Holy Bible, and Yeshua HIS Son!

  11. FRANK permalink
    October 24, 2009 12:46 pm

    “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” (Gen 9:6) Pretty clear no? The bleeding heart liberals give more rights to the criminal than to the victim.

    Here in France it is no different. Recently a man that molested a child and was incarcerated had his sentence cut short and was released because of the liberals crying poor misguided person he just needs to be understood. So what did this poor guy do upon being released from prison? He raped and murdered a young woman jogger! Get a clue liberal left, and lets get back to what God said in His word the Bible!

  12. October 24, 2009 6:55 pm

    I’ll purchase the rope.

  13. Jo Naylor permalink
    October 25, 2009 9:29 pm

    you purchase the rope and I’ll by the bullets, that way we will be sure to get rid
    of these that don’t deserve to live, as they took innocent lives, but things are
    so crazy now you can go to hospital and kill a child nine months in the womb;
    so why would theses law makers thinks anymore of someone breathing, killing
    has just become killing as if you are not really a person!

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