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Thread: US approaches 1000 execution since '77

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    Default US approaches 1000 execution since '77

    NEW YORK (AP)

    "Let's do it."

    With those last words, convicted killer Gary Gilmore ushered in the modern era of capital punishment in the United States, an age of busy death chambers that will likely see its 1,000th execution in the coming days.

    After a 10-year moratorium, Gilmore in 1977 became the first person to be executed following a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court decision that validated state laws to reform the capital punishment system. Since then, 997 prisoners have been executed, and next week, the 998th, 999th and 1,000th are scheduled to die.

    Robin Lovitt, 41, will likely be the one to earn that macabre distinction next Wednesday. He was convicted of fatally stabbing a man with scissors during a 1998 pool hall robbery in Virginia.

    Ahead of Lovitt on death row are Eric Nance, scheduled to be executed Monday in Arkansas, and John Hicks, scheduled to be executed Tuesday in Ohio. Both executions appear likely to proceed.

    Gilmore was executed before a Utah firing squad, after a record of petty crime, killing of a motel manager and suicide attempts in prison. His life was the basis for Norman Mailer's book The Executioner's Song and a TV miniseries.

    While his case was well-known, most today could probably not name even one of the more than 3,400 prisoners including 118 foreign nationals on death row in the U.S. In the last 28 years, the U.S. has executed on average one person every 10 days.

    The focus of the debate on capital punishment was once the question of whether it served as a deterrent to crime. Today, the argument is more on whether the government can be trusted not to execute an innocent person.

    Thomas Hill, an attorney for a death row inmate in Ohio who recently won a second stay of execution, thinks the answer is obvious.

    "We have a criminal system that makes mistakes. If you accept that proposition, that means you have to be prepared for the inevitability that some are sentenced to death for crimes they didn't commit," said Hill.

    But advocates of the death penalty argue that its opponents are elitist liberals who are ignoring the real victims.

    "Since 1999 we've had 100,000 innocent people murdered in the U.S., but nobody is planning on commemorating all those people killed," said Michael Paranzino, president of Throw Away the Key, a group that supports the death penalty.

    Race is also is a key question in the debate. Since 1976, 58% of those executed in the U.S. were white while 34% were black, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. But non-Latino whites make up 75% of the U.S. population, while non-Latino blacks comprise just over 12%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

    Some supporters say ending the death penalty would be harmful to poor minorities, who are disproportionately murder victims.

    "Increasingly violent crime is primarily for the working class folks, poor people and people of color," Paranzino said.

    Opponents of capital punishment also point to the unfair role of class and race in death penalty cases. "There is tremendous arbitrariness to the death penalty. ... the race of the victims has a lot to do with who winds up getting executed," said Barry Scheck, co-founder of the New York-based Innocence Project, a legal clinic that seeks to exonerate inmates through DNA testing.

    Death sentences nationwide have dropped by 50% since the late 1990s, with executions carried out down by 40%, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Twelve states do not have the death penalty, and at least two states Illinois and New Jersey have formal moratoriums on capital punishment, according to the center.

    An October Gallup poll showed 64% of Americans support use of the death penalty. But that is the lowest level in 27 years, down from a high of 80% in 1994.

    Still, some powerful political forces are looking to speed up the trying and executing of prisoners. Both houses of the U.S. Congress are considering bills that would lessen the ability of defendants in capital cases to appeal to federal courts.

    Proponents of the legislation say such appeals add up to 15 years to the process of executing a prisoner. Detractors say the law will not allow federal courts to review most cases and will result in innocent people being put to death.

    Since 1973, 122 prisoners have been freed from death row. The vast majority of those cases came during the last 15 years, since the use of DNA evidence became widespread. While there is no official proof an innocent person has been executed, opponents of the death penalty say the number of prisoners whose convictions have been reversed should fuel skepticism.

    "I don't think any rational person seriously examining the evidence can have any confidence that an innocent hasn't already been executed," said Scheck.

    Using post-conviction DNA evidence, the Innocence Project has helped in more than half of the 163 cases vacated 14 of which were from death row. "We've demonstrated that there are too many innocent people on death row," Scheck said.

    But that argument does not impress Charles Rosenthal, district attorney for Harris County, Texas, which has sent more prisoners to the death chamber 85 than any other U.S. county and all but two states, Texas and Virginia, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice statistics.

    "I don't know about every death penalty case in Texas, but I feel quite sure that no one that this office has had anything to do with was factually innocent," Rosenthal said.

    Scheck believes Rosenthal's claim is based "more on faith than fact." He noted that the police DNA lab in Houston has been shut down since 2002 because an investigation found problems with poor training and contaminated evidence.

    "What kind of confidence can you have when the jurisdiction that executes more people than any other is fraught with unreliable testing results?" Scheck said.

    In at least two cases, questions are being raised about whether an innocent person was put to death. In St. Louis, Larry Griffin was convicted for the 1980 fatal shooting of a 19-year-old drug dealer, Quintin Moss. He was executed in 1995. His conviction largely rested on the testimony of a career criminal who was in the Federal Witness Protection Program. Now, a policeman whose testimony backed up the criminal's story says the man was lying, and Moss' own family thinks Griffin was innocent.

    In Texas, the case of Ruben Cantu, who was executed in 1993, is receiving attention. Cantu was convicted in 1985 of killing a man and wounding another during a robbery attempt that happened the previous year, when he was 17. A decade after his execution, however, the only witness in the case and Cantu's co-defendant have both come forward to say he was innocent.

    In St. Louis, City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce has led a review of 1,400 cases to see if DNA evidence can prove the guilt or innocence of those convicted. With only 12 cases left to review, evidence led to the exoneration of just three men, none of whom were on death row.

    "Most of the time there is testing, it confirms the guilt of the defendant," Joyce said.

    Virginia Gov. Mark Warner is examining Lovitt's case, and could decide whether or not to grant clemency over the weekend. It would be the only likely way Lovitt could avoid execution. In October, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to reconsider the case.

    DNA tests on the scissors used in the stabbing were inconclusive, and the scissors were later thrown away because of a lack of storage space. One of his lawyers, former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, said though he supports the death penalty in principle, it should not apply to Lovitt for reasons "including above all right now the destruction of the DNA evidence."
    I know this subject touches off very heated debate, so I will throw my two cents in and then run like hell. While I understand that the real victims are those who are murdered, killing someone is not a good way to teach people that killing is wrong, particularly when there is always the chance that an innocent person could be put to death. I also think it is a far harsher punishment to lock someone up for the rest of their life. It's cheaper as well. And to those who say it would be cheaper to put them to death if all the endless appeals were done away with, I answer that any one of us could be wrongly convicted of a crime and face an unwarranted punishment; in light of that, I absolutelly support every possible appeal that could be made. I'm done and now I shall run.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
    --Sinclair Lewis

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    Silver Member provence's Avatar
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    Default Re: US approaches 1000 execution since '77

    ^^^ Totally agree with you. I am opposed to the Death Penalty. Now what rock are you hiding under, buttmuch? Because I'm on my way to join you!
    No, seriously, I don't care who disagrees with me. I've got reasons for my beliefs and to each his own.

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    Hit By Ban Bus! DisruptiveHair's Avatar
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    Default Re: US approaches 1000 execution since '77

    I am opposed to the death penalty for pragmatic reasons. I don't believe that it is necessarily wrong for the state to execute people, but I'm opposed to the death penalty mainly because it costs too much money (capital trials + appeals process are very expensive), there are too many procedural errors, and these lead to what I feel is a very real risk of executing innocent people. You can't undo an execution; if you've been in prison for 20 years for something you didn't do, at least you can be released. You can't bring someone back from the dead, and the states are completely unmotivated to clear anyone they've executed for entirely obvious reasons.

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    Gold Member deckchick's Avatar
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    Default Re: US approaches 1000 execution since '77

    I am Canadian, we don't have the death penalty here, but I do believe in the death penalty for killing cops, judges, and other law enforcement staff. You kill a cop you die. There must be respect for the law, or at least fear of it. It would have to be proven 100% guilty tho, and with DNA that should be easy enough to do.

    And I would do away with segregated prison cells, let the serial killers and child molesters live in the general population. If they get killed, great! If not, I hope they live a live full of fear, being the "wife" of Big Bubba.
    Vegetarian - Old Indian word for "Bad Hunter"

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    Elite Member Sojiita's Avatar
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    Default Re: US approaches 1000 execution since '77

    Quote Originally Posted by deckchick View Post
    I am Canadian, we don't have the death penalty here, but I do believe in the death penalty for killing cops, judges, and other law enforcement staff. You kill a cop you die. There must be respect for the law, or at least fear of it. It would have to be proven 100% guilty tho, and with DNA that should be easy enough to do.

    And I would do away with segregated prison cells, let the serial killers and child molesters live in the general population. If they get killed, great! If not, I hope they live a live full of fear, being the "wife" of Big Bubba.
    Unfortunately it never is 100%, is it? I am opposed to the death penalty based on both moral and pragmatic reasons. It is expensive, final and unrevokable, does not deter crime, and cheapens and degrades the state and the citizens it represents, IMO.

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    Hit By Ban Bus! pacific breeze's Avatar
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    Default Re: US approaches 1000 execution since '77

    ^^I'm with you Soljita.

    And the death penalty for cop killers, or anybody else, doesn't work. AT ALL. For the small percentage of criminals who kill cops -- often by accident but not always -- to think the death penalty will stop them is to not understand the workings of the criminal mind. The vast majority of criminals have brain damage of some sort, whether it be FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome) or other forms, and consequently have low impulse control. Trust me on this, they don't take time to think about consequences of their acts or they wouldn't be commiting the crimes in the first place.

    The death penalty has nothing to do with deterring crime, and everything to do with delivering public vengeance. And with the large numbers of people all over the States who have been wrongfully convicted -- and that's just the tip of the iceberg according to most experts in the field -- I'd be awfully leery of advocating the death penalty for any kind of crime.

    I also don't condone throwing prisoners to the wolves -- good people are judged by rising above the mob, not sinking to its level. Just my opinion.

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    Hit By Ban Bus! DisruptiveHair's Avatar
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    Default Re: US approaches 1000 execution since '77

    Part of me wants to bring back public floggings and humiliating punishments because crime pisses me off...but the other part of me wants to embrace the wishy-washy liberal view of crime, i.e. let's all be nice to everyone.

    I'm torn, honestly. I think some people can be saved, but I think others are just lowlife scumbags who should be put to sleep. The hard part is figuring out who to save and who to toss aside.

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    Default Re: US approaches 1000 execution since '77

    Australia does not have the death penalty and the whole country is in uproar at the moment because an Australian drug smuggler is going to be hanged in Singapore next week where he was caught trying to leave the country with 400g of heroin bound for the veins of Australian junkies. Whilst I disagree with capital punishment, mainly because it clearly does not work, I do have problems with the current hysteria here. Like most other SE Asian countries, Singapore has draconian and well-publicised punishment for drug smuggling, ie, you die. People are making such a fuss about one Australian, yet don't protest about the thousands of other prisoners on Death Rows all over the world. There seems to be the idea that an Australian passport is some kind of Get Out Of Jail Free card.
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    Hit By Ban Bus! pacific breeze's Avatar
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    Default Re: US approaches 1000 execution since '77

    ^^ I wouldn't describe the liberal view of crime as wishy washy or believing that society has to be "nice" to criminals but I agree -- it is a complex and difficult topic. I've been the victim of a serious crime and I have run the gamut of emotion from blind rage to almost forgiveness. But I still don't believe in state-sanctioned murder. Taking a life is taking a life, whatever the reason.

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    Gold Member deckchick's Avatar
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    Default Re: US approaches 1000 execution since '77

    Quote Originally Posted by disruptivehair View Post
    Part of me wants to bring back public floggings and humiliating punishments because crime pisses me off...but the other part of me wants to embrace the wishy-washy liberal view of crime, i.e. let's all be nice to everyone.

    I'm torn, honestly. I think some people can be saved, but I think others are just lowlife scumbags who should be put to sleep. The hard part is figuring out who to save and who to toss aside.
    I hear ya DH, and I do believe that the USA is killing way too many criminals, sometimes on rather shaky evidence. But at the same time there has to be serious repercussions for serious crimes. I have zero sympathy for child abusers and for stone cold killers. I am talking about the sociopaths that hunt down people and kill them. Canadians will know who I am talking about when I say "Homolka/Bernardo. People like them need to be put to death. I can sort of understand crimes of passion, but if any of my family was killed in a violent crime, I would be hard-pressed not to want them dead.

    Pacific, I am so sorry that you had to have that experience, I have a friend that is involved in a major crime and it is very difficult for all the victims and their families.

    There has to be a way to punish criminals, I am not so sure the systems we have now work.
    Vegetarian - Old Indian word for "Bad Hunter"

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    Elite Member Mr. Authority's Avatar
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    Default Re: US approaches 1000 execution since '77

    I agree with all of you how the death penalty is unesscary. IMO having a sentence of life without parole for murder is a much more harsher sentence than death. I mean how much time does one spend on death row, less than a year or 2? Not to mention that most death penalties are quick and painless (lethal injection comes to mind), it gives the criminal the benefit of not having to spend hard times in prison for his crimes and that to me is the law giving criminals the 'easy way out'.

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    Default Re: US approaches 1000 execution since '77

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Authority View Post
    I agree with all of you how the death penalty is unesscary. IMO having a sentence of life without parole for murder is a much more harsher sentence than death. I mean how much time does one spend on death row, less than a year or 2? Not to mention that most death penalties are quick and painless (lethal injection comes to mind), it gives the criminal the benefit of not having to spend hard times in prison for his crimes and that to me is the law giving criminals the 'easy way out'.
    most prisoners spend 10 -15 years on death row. Furthermore, it's considered a form of torture by the European Member states, who are part of the European Convention of Human Rights. If a British person kills someone in America, it's a condition of extradition that the American authorites will commute any death sentence to a life imprisonment order. From what I remember of my human rights studies, the incidence of death row inmates developing mental health issues is huge, from living under the shadow of the death sentence for years, knowing you could be executed next week, or there could be another appeal.

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    Default Re: US approaches 1000 execution since '77

    Quote Originally Posted by Rogue View Post
    most prisoners spend 10 -15 years on death row. Furthermore, it's considered a form of torture by the European Member states, who are part of the European Convention of Human Rights. If a British person kills someone in America, it's a condition of extradition that the American authorites will commute any death sentence to a life imprisonment order. From what I remember of my human rights studies, the incidence of death row inmates developing mental health issues is huge, from living under the shadow of the death sentence for years, knowing you could be executed next week, or there could be another appeal.

    European countries generally refuse to extradite suspects to America unless they are assured that the prosecution will not seek the death penalty. Meanwhile, support for the death penalty among the British public is as high as it is among the US public.

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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    Default Re: US approaches 1000 execution since '77

    ^^^^
    but thank god not everything is left to public opinion. not just for things like the death penalty or even abortion, i'm pretty sure most laws aimed at protecting minorites wouldn't exist if they were put to a vote. think of how most people in california voted so that illegal aliens wouldn't have access to public services like schools and hospitals... thank god the supreme court struck it down.

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