• Twitter
  • Facebook
News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Fairly costly

Activists led by a 24-year-old Notre Dame grad want a moratorium on executions in Indiana until "the system's fairness and massive costs can be examined." But those massive costs -- an average of $624,000 per execution, eight times the cost of life without parole -- are there because of the endless appeal process. And the "fairness" the group seeks would only add to the cost of appeals:

Death-penalty defendants, by law, must have two lawyers meeting specific experience and training standards. Still, advocates for a moratorium say Indiana needs more safeguards.

The bar association panel's 2007 report recommends requiring indefinite storage of biological evidence for further testing; probing why killers of whites are more likely to get death sentences; and requiring video recording of interrogations.

That report said Indiana failed to fully comply with dozens of suggested protocols, including an ability for its appeals courts to review whether different crimes merit death sentences.

And, honestly, the group doesn't really want a moratorium. It wants to end the death penalty. That's fine as a tactic -- most of us try for something less if we can't get what we really want -- but it's not likely to gain traction (or "create a market for the issue," as the activists say) in a state whose residents strongly support capital punishment.

Posted in: Uncategorized


Wed, 08/19/2009 - 4:29pm

For me -- not that you asked -- the main problem with the death penalty is that evidence seems to be emerging that there are a fair number of wrongful convictions. I don't mind killing a guy who did something horrible; but killing a guy who didn't is bad news. The legal system is never going to work perfectly, but in most cases its benefits outweigh its costs. In non-death situations, however, there is always at least the possibility of righting the things the legal system got wrong.

Thu, 08/20/2009 - 12:12am

Doug is absolutely correct. Project Innocence has done some remarkable work on this, and documents more than 130 death penalty cases that were overturned and resulted in either charges being dropped or acquittal at retrial since 1973, maybe not statistically a large number, but we're talking about human life here. And who knows how many others there were that we'll never know about? So as far as I'm concerned, the cost of the appeals process is more than justified.

Leo Morris
Thu, 08/20/2009 - 7:22am

My doubts about capital punishment, which have waxed and waned over the years, come mostly from a libertarian perspective. It's contradictory to say, on the one hand, that we barely trust the government to pave the streets and get the garbage picked up on time, but, on the other hand, we trust it with the most profound life-and-death decision possible. Recent news that even DNA evidence can be fabricated does not foster confidence in the system getting things right.

Thu, 08/20/2009 - 9:56am

Capital Punishment is wrong. With or without the added expense. You cannot teach people not to kill by killing. It is absurd.

Leo Morris
Thu, 08/20/2009 - 10:10am

Fear of death isn't a deterrent? Don't be silly. Granted, you can't teach people not to kill by putting only a miniscule percentage of killers to death and waiting 20 years to do it. But I get that you're raising a moral point, not a practical one. Would you also argue that you can't teach people not to steal by fining them?

Thu, 08/20/2009 - 11:02am

A fine is not theft. And no, fear of death is not a deterrent. States without the death penalty have lower homicide rates. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/deterrence-states-without-death-penalty-have-had-consistently-lower-murder-rates

Not to mention the fact that when murderers commit murder, they don't stop to think "Gee, I wonder if I should do this, let's list the pros and cons". Generally speaking, they're not thinking at all.

All the most common arguments for the death penalty are wrong. It does not cost less, it is not a deterrent, it does not exact revenge as many murder victims' families will attest here: http://www.mvfhr.org/

The USA is also the only western developed country in the world that has the death penalty. And it has the highest homicide rate of all western developed countries. Isn't that embarrassing? I mean, clearly any level-headed person can see, it doesn't work. Do you really want to pay MORE tax dollars on something that has NO effect on the crime rate and has a high probability of killing innocent people? Do you really want your government charging you money to kill innocent people in your name? Are you no better than a murderer then?

Andrew J.
Thu, 08/20/2009 - 3:43pm

It's our society's schizophrenia where on one hand we espouse "Thou shall not kill" and then embrace "An eye for an eye."

tim zank
Thu, 08/20/2009 - 10:39pm

In Islamic countries, theft is very rare because they chop your frickin hand off in the public square. Seems some deterrents are effecive.

I'm not a huge fan of the death penalty necessarily because there is always a "chance" the accused might be innocent in our government run court system.

Keeping in mind this is the same system that can't deliver a letter, can't get a train on time, can't balance a checkbook, etc etc etc...

Leo makes a good point about the 20 years of appeals...People lose interest and don't care..If ya catch them in the square (like in the middleast) and simply whack off their arm or shoot them in the forehead, it does a lot for "deterrance"

Fri, 08/21/2009 - 8:27am

Actually, in the country with the largest Muslim population, Indonesia, theft is still rampant. As is sexual assault, and murder, terrorism, etc.

In Saudi Arabia, which is the country I am assuming you are referring to being as it lobs off the hands of criminals, theft and burglaries still occur and are largely unreported.

Saudi Arabia is also a country where many, many foreigners including Americans, Canadians and British are held for things they did not do while evidence is created to implicate the prisoner. Read William Samson's Confessions of an Innocent Man. (or watch the documentary)

Saudi Arabia also flogs people for drunkenness and amputates limbs for sexual deviance (which can include dating).

A government that has without a doubt convicted the wrong man before and does it on a regular basis, knowingly tampering with evidence, has the kind of power to cut of a hand or foot. Or kill you. That sounds like a recipe for a lot of innocent people losing extremities if you ask me. If that sounds better to you than a few robberies, I really don't know what to say...

Andrew J.
Fri, 08/21/2009 - 12:00pm

That's why cops are not supposed to shoot burglars in the back while running away. It's better to have robbers get away than chopping off their hands, shooting them in the back, or more seriously, executing them only later to find through evidence/recanted testimony: "Oops, guess we gave the lethal injection to the wrong guy. Sorry!"