Death penalty makes us less safe, says ACLU executive

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Photos, video and more below.
As we've reported, yesterday was World Day to End the Death Penalty, and to mark the occasion, capital punishment opponents gathered at the State Capitol to decry the ultimate penalty with time-tested arguments and new statistics from a white paper and infographic assembled for the occasion; see both below. Among the assertions made by Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, the ACLU of Colorado's executive director, in an interview after the event: "The death penalty may actually be making us less safe."

Speakers at yesterday's event included Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett, Sharletta Evans, the mother of a murder victim, and Robert Dewey, who served nearly sixteen years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit. Dewey, who was ultimately exonerated by DNA evidence, said at the gathering that the death penalty had been discussed in his case, and if it had been imposed, he would have died despite being innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.

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Stan Garnett at yesterday's World Day to End the Death Penalty event.
We had a lot of people coming from a lot of different perspectives," says Woodliff-Stanley. "And we also highlighted research that we and Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty have done around the cost of these death penalty cases.

"What we've found through open-records requests on prior cases is that death penalty trials in Colorado cost an average of $3.5 million," he continues. "And that's just for the trial. That doesn't count appeals or the cost of maintaining death row, which is much more expensive than maintaining life without the possibility of parole."

This last factoid may strike some folks as counter-intuitive, Woodliff-Stanley acknowledges. "A lot of people think it saves money because you don't have to keep people in prison all their lives. But the reality is, it costs a lot more."

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Robert Dewey talking about his opposition to the death penalty.
To illustrate the price, Woodliff-Stanley highlights the decision of Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey to seek the death penalty against Dexter Lewis in the quintuple homicide at Fero's Bar & Grill in October 2012, as well as Douglas County's years-long death-penalty pursuit of Edward Montour for a prison murder.

"You have counties like Denver, where there have been severe cuts to Head Start programs coming out of the sequester," he notes. "Yet at the same time, you have a county prosecutor initiating a death penalty case that will probably cost in the vicinity of $3.5 million, which could have provided access to Head Start for 500 children. And in Douglas County, they are cutting about $300,000 out of programs for people with developmental disabilities. You have to wonder, if they can't afford something as important as that, how can they afford to spend ten times that much on a single death penalty case."

Continue for more about the ACLU of Colorado's arguments against the death penalty, including photos, an infographic, a video and more.


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16 comments
Scott Petrovits
Scott Petrovits

If your main objection to the death penalty is the social or financial cost, and not the abhorrent act of depriving a human being of life, your values are pretty messed up.

stupidstuka
stupidstuka

Stupid Americans deserve the laws they suffer.

Sean Gruno
Sean Gruno

If it was such a deterrent then wouldn't Texas, with their glee in executing people, be the safest state?

Louis Cruz Jr.
Louis Cruz Jr.

It was meant for the worst criminals but nowadays they try to give the death penalty to lesser crimes. It's prosecutors trying to get another notch. It doesn't work!

dudleysharp
dudleysharp

@Scott Petrovits 

Scott,

Interesting point of view.

In the 70's and 80's the anti death penalty movement found that the moral arguement against the death penalty was not working for them, so they switched and started to attack the alleged structural deficiencies of the death penalty, which is what they have stuck to since, moving from one topic to another and being dishonest much of the time.

I agree with you that the moral arguments are foundational - I support the death penalty based upon justice, as I do all other sanctions -- it is also important to recognize and expose the inaccuracies of the anti death penalty folks.

dudleysharp
dudleysharp

@Scott Petrovits


 Immanuel Kant: "If an offender has committed murder, he must die. In this case, no possible substitute can satisfy justice. For there is no parallel between death and even the most miserable life, so that there is no equality of crime and retribution unless the perpetrator is judicially put to death.". "A society that is not willing to demand a life of somebody who has taken somebody else's life is simply immoral."

Pope Pius XII; "When it is a question of the execution of a man condemned to death it is then reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of life, in expiation of his fault, when already, by his fault, he has dispossessed himself of the right to live." 9/14/52.

John Murray: "Nothing shows the moral bankruptcy of a people or of a generation more than disregard for the sanctity of human life." "... it is this same atrophy of moral fiber that appears in the plea for the abolition of the death penalty." "It is the sanctity of life that validates the death penalty for the crime of murder. It is the sense of this sanctity that constrains the demand for the infliction of this penalty. The deeper our regard for life the firmer will be our hold upon the penal sanction which the violation of that sanctity merit." (Page 122 of Principles of Conduct).

John Locke: "A criminal who, having renounced reason... hath, by the unjust violence and slaughter he hath committed upon one, declared war against all mankind, and therefore may be destroyed as a lion or tyger, one of those wild savage beasts with whom men can have no society nor security." And upon this is grounded the great law of Nature, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." Second Treatise of Civil Government.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: "In killing the criminal, we destroy not so much a citizen as an enemy. The trial and judgments are proofs that he has broken the Social Contract, and so is no longer a member of the State." (The Social Contract).

Saint (& Pope) Pius V: "The just use of (executions), far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this (Fifth) Commandment which prohibits murder." "The Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent" (1566).

3200 additional pro death penalty quotes
http://prodpquotes.info/

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Scott Petrovits Strong post, Scott. Thanks for weighing in.

dudleysharp
dudleysharp

@Sean Gruno

No.

All criminal sanctions, regardless of crime/murder rates, deter some  (2). Just because crime/murder rates are low in one jurisdiction and high in another, doesn't mean that no one is deterred in the jurisdiction with higher rates, as death penalty opponents would claim.

We all know that within different states or countries, there are towns, cities and neighborhoods which have varying crime/murder rates. All sanctions deter in all of those jurisdictions, but they have different rates because of different circumstances (2). It is not that none are deterred, simply because there are higher crime/murder rate in one jurisdiction than another. The claim is irrational on its face (2).

Let's say one jurisdiciton has the lowest of all crime rates. Does that mean that in all other jurisdicitions that none are deterred, because all of them have higher rates than that one? Again, it's ridiculous on its face, but that is what anti death penalty folks are saying.

2)   a) "DEATH PENALTY DETERRENCE CLARIFIED"  http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2012/12/death-penalty-deterrence-clarified.html

      b) DETERRENCE, THE DEATH PENALTY & MURDER RATEShttp://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2012/12/deterrence-death-penalty-murder-rates.html

      c) "Death Penalty, Deterrence & Murder Rates: Let's be clear"http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2009/03/death-penalty-deterrence-murder-rates.html

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Sean Gruno Hadn't thought of it that way, Sean. We're going to make your post an upcoming Comment of the Day. Thanks.

dudleysharp
dudleysharp

@Louis Cruz Jr. 

Prosecutors seek the death penalty for the same reason judges or juries give it -- Justice.

If it was about notch seeking  it would be sought more than 3% of the time.

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@Louis Cruz Jr. Interesting observation, Louis. Thanks for posting.

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