Death Sentence Commuted Under New Anti-Race Bias Law in North Carolina

A North Carolina judge commuted the death sentence of Marcus Robinson, a black man convicted of killing a white teenage boy after abducting him in a car and robbing him at gunpoint, based on a new state law (the idea came up on the federal level in the 90s, but never came to fruition) that prohibits race from being a factor in the application of the death sentence. The ACLU explains what happened in the Robinson case:

[P]owerful statistical evidence of racial bias in jury selection was introduced [by defense attorneys], including a study from Michigan State University finding that North Carolina prosecutors were twice as likely to remove qualified Black jurors from jury service as other jurors, even after the researchers controlled for alternative explanations such as criminal background or reservations about imposing a death sentence.
The state offered no meaningful rebuttal to the statistical evidence. No statistical expert testified for the state that race did not play a role in jury selection. Rather, the State lodged a frontal attack on the concept of statistical evidence itself. In its closing argument, the prosecution argued that the problem with the Robinson's statistical evidence is that it tries "to get people to lose sight of the trees and focus on the forest." At the end of the argument, the prosecution was even more direct: it pleaded with the judge not to make a decision "with respect to the Racial Justice Act based upon numbers."

In a 167-page ruling, Judge Gregory Weeks disagreed with the prosecution’s argument, ruling that “race was a materially, practically and statistically significant factor in the decision to exercise peremptory challenges during jury selection by prosecutors.”

Of course none of this would matter if the death penalty became a thing of the past.

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  • Chris Mallory||

    If you kidnap, rob, and murder someone death is the only appropriate punishment. It isn't that hard. This guy is scum who should be dead. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

  • NL_||

    Good thing jurors are never wrong, never prejudiced, and never fooled by over-aggressive prosecutors.

  • ||

    I know!

    Good thing the government only prosecutes guilty people!

  • ||

    Yes, why Barry Scheck is just an outlier, a statistical anomaly. Pay no attention to that village idiot.

  • Evil Otto||

    Of course none of this would matter if the death penalty became a thing of the past.

    None of this would matter if judges rather than juries decided the death penalty either. So?

  • plu1959||

    Are judges not influenced by their prejudices?

  • Evil Otto||

    I wasn't saying it was desirable, only that it would make the problem go away. Just poking at Mr Krazewski's attempt to sneak his pro-criminal propaganda into a basically unrelated story.

  • plu1959||

    Okey dokey.

  • Brandon||

    Pro-criminal?

  • ||

    It doesn't matter who does the sentencing, the only way to eliminate the possibility of killing an innocent person is to not have the death penalty.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    It's better if an innocent person gets shanked or dies of old age in prison?

  • juris imprudent||

    Ironically, this guy only got attention on his case because of the death penalty. I oppose the death penalty - because I don't trust the state with its administration. People who are opposed to injustice may be less likely to care if death isn't on the line.

  • Gerholdt||

    I bet the Norwegians care - their skinhead mass murderer is subject to a maximum sentence of 21 years. Total, not 77 consecutive. Be careful what you ask for!

  • juris imprudent||

    My comment is really directed at the "Free Mumia" types. Take the death penalty off the table and they won't have near the motivation.

  • ||

    Be careful with false dichotomies!

  • gaucho||

    "Skinhead"? The guy was a fervent pro-Zionist, fer godsakes. Inform yourself.

  • Jerryskids||

    I oppose the death penalty except in cases where there is a heinous crime and incontrovertible proof such as the guy was caught in the act. And then it should be a quick removal of a wart on society. Somebody that has no compunction about killing people is never going to be fit to live with other people and if he doesn't mind killing other people, I don't mind killing him. Beyond that, I don't trust the cops, the prosecutors or the judicial system enough to remove a shadow of a doubt.

    But as to this story itself? BAD NEWS. Without reading the decision, it sure does sound like the judge just said you no longer have to actually prove discrimination - if the numbers don't match some statistical profile, it's prima facie discrimination.

    What happens when this decision is used as a jumping off point for all the discrimination lawsuits that currently are restricted to proving actual discrimination rather than theoretical discrimination? How many female physics professors are there in the California university system? How many black department heads at GE? How many gays in the NFL? How many handicapped bank tellers at BofA? How many old people are Pizza Hut managers? You may no longer have to prove they discriminated against you because you are a minority, all you have to do is look at the numbers.

  • Jerryskids||

    Nor am I so sure that this should be read as discriminating *against* black jurors - not that I am going to ever wade through the reams of statistical sampling bullshit the lawyers introduced as evidence. But the striking "otherwise qualified" jurors caught my eye: what counts as "otherwise qualified"? Are they setting some bare minimum and asserting that everybody meeting that minimum should have an equal probability of being a juror?

    From what little I know about the art of jury selection, you aren't looking for the best and brightest - would any lawyer want to face a jury of 12 lawyers, for example? You are looking for people who are smart enough to follow a plausible argument but not so smart that they can think beyond the plausible argument. It may very well be that prosecutors tend to strike blacks because blacks know more than they should about how the judicial system really works.

  • ||

    But as to this story itself? BAD NEWS. Without reading the decision, it sure does sound like the judge just said you no longer have to actually prove discrimination - if the numbers don't match some statistical profile, it's prima facie discrimination.

    You are familiar with The Implicit Association Test. no?

  • Jerryskids||

    No. I googled it and I think I have heard of tests like this, but I am not a big fan of psychology. Or any of the "social sciences" for that matter.

    (I am sure thinking the "social sciences" aren't very scientific is a clear indication of latent deviant social behavior of some sort. Like hanging out on Reason.)

  • ||

    It's a legal test to determine employment discrimination in areas of Civil Rights law, basically stating if a certain amount of minority hiring is absent, then discrimination has taken place. Basically, a quota without a defined percentage.

    IANAL, but this test has been expanded to most, if not all, aspects of the law, from what I have read.

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg made this famous because, at her confirmation hearings, she inadvertently admitted to this very practice (it was shown that her law firm where she practiced had a "disproportionate" number of non-minorities employed) when she was a practicing atty in her law firm.

  • TELLMOFF||

    Did the jurry or the judge decide on the death penalty?

  • Jeff||

    How come Gregory Weeks didn't confer with a qualified white judge before commuting this scumbag's sentence? Clearly race was a materially, practically, and statistically significant factor in his decision.

  • T o n y||

    It's well-established that the death penalty is applied in a racially biased way. Also, there is no practical reason to have a death penalty.

  • tarran||

    Of course there is a practical reason: a guy who remorselessly murders repeatedly, for example, will always be a danger to others, and it's safer and cheaper to dispose of him rather than keep him around.

    It's the inability to eliminate errors where an innocent person is killed that makes a death penalty undesirable. But it's quite practical which is why it is practiced among even the poorest societies from pre-history to the present.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    It's practiced among poor societies because they are poor. They can't afford to lock someone up forever. Or even at all. Witness the criminal code of Islam. That was because it's much cheaper to simply cut off a hand or flog someone than keep them locked up.

  • Gerholdt||

    Capitol punishment actually costs more than it would to house a convict in general population for his life expectancy, due to labor intensive Death Row and interminable appeals.
    And it's not generally a deterrent - a San Quentin inmate who helped build the gas chamber got out, committed a murder and died in that same chair.
    IMHO, reserve it for murder while already serving LWOP, murder of a LEO (to give suspects a better chance of getting to trial), and extreme special circumstances.

  • Seamus||

    Citing the example of the person who wasn't deterred by the death penalty doesn't tell you anything about the number of people who *were* deterred. It's much harder to notice and count them because, duh, they didn't commit any murders.

  • R||

    Capitol punishment actually costs more than it would to house a convict in general population for his life expectancy, due to labor intensive Death Row and interminable appeals.

    Yes, but that's not inherent to the death penalty itself, only in the way we have implemented it, as you point out yourself.

    The only argument against the death penalty that really has merit is the possibility of putting an innocent to death. And it is definitely not an insignificant objection. I think that if we limit it to cases where there is absolutely no doubt as to who committed the crime (i.e. there were multiple eye witnesses + video evidence, for example), then we can avoid that issue.

  • ||

    Why should the pigs get special protection? If anything the death penalty should be applied when they murder us little people.

  • T o n y||

    It's no more of a deterrent than life in prison and doesn't save on cost (not that cost should be admissible as even a practical consideration--saving the state money shouldn't inform the correct application of justice).

    I think the libertarian position is obvious. Why give the state the power to kill outside of self-defense? Shouldn't the same moral rule apply to it that applies to individuals? I'm not a libertarian and I think so.

  • Deacon Blue||

    Actually, the jury is out on this one. There have been studies that seemed to show that the death penalty was a significant deterrent. Whether these studies ought to be trusted is another matter, but if I thought the criminal justice system able to almost entirely avoid sentencing innocents to death it would be enough evidence to make me support the death penalty (though I'd think we shouldn't sentence blacks to death more often than whites, all other things equal.)

    I don't think the criminal justice system is very good at avoiding wrongful convictions though, and I am not hopeful that it can practically be made acceptably accurate, so while I'm in favor of the death penalty in principle I am against it in practice.

    If the criminal justice system were reformed so that wrongful convictions for all serious crimes became very rare I might change my mind about this. I'm not gonna hold my breath.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    I smell cunt. Whiny, liberal cunt.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Not you, Deacon. The smell is coming from just above you.

  • benji||

    Learn how threading works and that would be clear to all.

  • Gladstone||

    "Also, there is no practical reason to have a death penalty."

    Only for the reactionaries once the revolution occurs right?

  • juris imprudent||

    I'd prefer to be killed by the bloodthirsty bastards than subjected to remorseless and relentless re-education.

  • T o n y||

    Who the hell are you talking about?

  • ||

    Oh don't worry Tony, we can keep a secret ;)

  • T o n y||

    It's the Jews isn't it.

  • Evil Otto||

    Liberals only support death penalties decided upon by the president and administered via drone attack.

  • juris imprudent||

    Only when TEAM BLUE occupies the White House.

  • T o n y||

    Don't confuse a conspicuous silence with an endorsement.

  • ||

    Isn't voting for the guy an endorsement?

  • T o n y||

    Since when has voting for someone been the same as agreeing with them about everything? Voting's a choice between alternatives.

  • juris imprudent||

    Giant douche or shit sandwich - you have to vote T o n y.

  • Evil Otto||

    There's no practical reason to lock up Bernie Madoff in prison for the brief remainder of his life either.

    He's not a danger to repeat his crime, as no one would trust him with their money.

    It's highly unlikely his imprisonment will deter any Ponzi schemers either. He made a good living on it for a long time before they caught him.

    But guess what? People have to pay for their crimes. Retribution is a perfectly legit reason for punishment.

  • T o n y||

    It will surely deter many would-be Ponzi schemers, because without punishment then Ponzi schemes would be effectively legal, and do you think there might be more or less Ponzi schemers in that case?

    Whose retribution? The state is there to administer justice, not react emotionally. The victims are separated from the administration of justice for a reason.

  • Gerholdt||

    So what do you do with a convict already serving life without parole who kills another prisoner, or, worse, a corrections officer? Take away his TV privileges?

  • T o n y||

    I believe there are levels of punishment within a sentence. There are levels of punishment beyond the legal system. Such as being raped or killed by a fellow inmate.

    Besides, how long would you fare without TV?

  • Gerholdt||

    Cruel and unusual? I recall a novel in which Hitler faked his suicide (including substituting the bogus corpse's dental records for his own) but was captured by Stalin after much suspenseful tracking ensued. He was placed in a tiger cage (geometry allows neither standing nor sitting) in a white room with the lights on 24/7 and anesthetized for feeding and medical care so he never saw another person.

  • ||

    Not quite sure why you think it's worse for a convict to kill a corrections officer over another prisoner...

  • Gladstone||

    I suppose you could include "humanitarian" wars as well.

  • plu1959||

    The death penalty is the ultimate exercise of the state's power over the individual. It gives the state the right to take life deliberately and in cold blood, as long as certain procedural requirements are met.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    If by "state" you mean "12 citizens" (as long as the accused wants a jury trial, I suppose), then yeah.

  • plu1959||

    You're forgetting the legislature that passes the laws under which the prisoner is charged, the police who arrest him, the detectives and prosecutors who get him convicted, the judge who manages the trial, the guards who execute him ...

  • Evil Otto||

    But without the jury's consent it doesn't happen.

    Seriously, are you going to blame the guys who do oil changes on the police cars for the death penalty too?

  • plu1959||

    It's all part of a government apparatus. The state creates the setting in which the decision of twelve jurors or a judge determines whether someone dies. Without the state backing, a verdict would be as meaningless as a "bounty" by the New Black Panthers.

  • Brandon||

    False equivalency much?

  • Evil Otto||

    Did you see plu's list?

  • General Butt Naked||

    Grab 12 voters off of the street: 5 voted for dubya, 6 voted for black jesus and one of them is tulpa, throw in an ambitious ADA, an apathetic judge, and whatever crap lawyer you can afford. If you honestly feel okay with giving them power over life and death than you are a way more idealistic and trusting soul than I, sir.

    I would love it if we could execute only those that there is 100% certainty of guilt, especially in particularly brutal crimes, but having one innocent person executed is one too many for me. For me, one innocent person killed by his peers and the state is the mark of failure for the death penalty. It's unacceptable.

  • Evil Otto||

    But you're OK with locking an innocent person in a cage for decades? Because I'm certain that's happened.

    Coercive punishment is a very serious thing. If you're going to have it at all -- be it fines, community service, genital mutilation, impalement, imprisonment, or the death penalty -- you're going to apply it to innocent people. And if you have punishments harsh enough to deter crimes, you're going to apply those harsh coercive penalties to innocent people by mistake too.

    You need to make peace with that fact or you need to demand the end of all coercive punishment.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Don't put fucking words in my mouth you dishonest fucking hack.

    If you're so fucking dense that you cannot grok that death is permanent you should be stripped of your fucking carry permit because you're a goddamn danger. Hell, let's fucking give you the chair now cause it can't be as bad as wandering around with sub-human intelligence and uber-mendacity.

  • Evil Otto||

    Decades in prison is permanent, too.

    You go into jail at 25 and leave at 50, no one can fix that.

  • ||

    Holy shit, you're stupid.

    Someone who is innocent has the rest of their life to prove themselves innocent if they're in jail for life. If they're on death row, they have much less time to do it.

    So which is worse, having a portion of your life taken away or all of it?

  • ||

    Hell even if you never have your innocence proven it's still better to be alive than dead. If they come to a different conclusion I'm sure they'll find a way to fix that.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    Someone who is innocent has the rest of their life to prove themselves innocent if they're in jail for life.

    Except that no one gives a shit about the innocence of a non death penalty inmate.

  • Evil Otto||

    All of it? Do they go back in time and sterilize your mother before she conceived you too?

    Death row inmates have much more of an opportunity to get a new trial and appeal their convictions than non-death row inmates, who only get at most two appeals and then they're done unless something huge happens from the outside. For instance, if Cory Maye had been sentenced to life in prison, rather than death, he'd probably have spent the rest of his life in prison. Because of the lavish system of appeals we give death row inmates he's now a free man.

    And in any case, I never said that life imprisonment was worse than the death penalty. I just find it suspicious that people get all high and mighty and sanctimonious about how we must never execute anyone lest we execute an innocent person, but propose nothing approaching that level of baby/bathwater logic when it comes to locking an innocent person in a cage for decades on end.

  • ||

    Which is why organizations like The Innocence Project are so important, Tulpa.

    If it can be shown that evidence is lacking or flat out unreliable, then it would stand to reason that a hard percentage of cases are indeed flawed and innocent people have been wrongly incarcerated, just on statistical proportional distribution alone.

  • ||

    You know, if there wasn't a death penalty, maybe people would pay more attention to people that got LWOP.

  • benji||

    Don't bring logic into this DesigNate. Tulpa sees some "order" than needs to be enforced.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Are you OK with giving them the power over life without parole?

    For me, one innocent person killed by his peers and the state is the mark of failure for the death penalty. It's unacceptable.

    I understand that. I don't agree with it, but I respect it.

    Have you ever heard of Kenneth Allen McDuff? Sentenced to death x3 in Texas. Sentences commuted to life in prison. Due to judges and overcrowding in prison, he was paroled. After which, he killed at least three more people. Three innocent people who would be alive if McDuff hadn't been.

  • General Butt Naked||

    I look at that case you mention my gut is to say we should of fried his ass, but then I think the only reason he got out was a failure of the system. I'm not comfortable using the failures of the system as justification for giving the system more power.

    To be honest, I don't trust the government and I also don't trust the judgement of strangers to kill a man lawfully.

    But, I am comfortable enough with people in general to let them have the power of life without parole. To me, unlike Prof Shitzu above, death is permanent. An innocent man that gets life is a terrible thing, but there's always a chance to fight when you're still alive.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    That's a powerful argument.

    I'm much less in favor of the death penalty than I used to be, not because I don't still think that there are some people whose actions warrant their removal from the planet, but because a non-trivial number of prosecutors put their "success" ahead of finding the actual murderer.

  • ||

    I've heard of McDuff. And I've always heard that random anecdotes do not an argument make.

    It's a philosophical principal, not a utilitarian one. McDuff made the personal decision to kill innocent people. No one is to blame for that but him. I don't see it in any way being an argument to abridge the power of the gov't to kill people.

  • ||

    Correction: I don't see it in any way being an argument against abridging the power of the gov't to kill people.

  • Evil Otto||

    And I've always heard that random anecdotes do not an argument make.

    You mean like the one this post was based on?

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    And I've always heard that random anecdotes do not an argument make.

    If the opposing argument is "I don't want to see innocent people die because the death penalty was used" I don't think it's too out of bounds to point out that people have died because the death penalty wasn't used.

    McDuff made the personal decision to kill innocent people. No one is to blame for that but him.

    You remember the relatively recent article here about the guy who got deported from the US and was then murdered? Do you think it would be consistent for people to blame US immigration policy for that murder but blame only McDuff for his later murders?

    I'm not entirely sure that someone who paroles a convicted serial killer doesn't share in some of the blame for McDuff's later murders, though.

  • juris imprudent||

    I totally agree that there are people that need killin' - I just don't agree that an amoral agent should do it. You want my perfect world - the survivors of the deceased decide, and even more ideally, throw the switch. If they say "no", then said asshole rots away the rest of his life - longing for death.

    When prosecutors don't have absolute immunity, then I'll reconsider. As it stands, no conduct by a prosecutor is so egregious that he stands to lose his life because of it.

  • juris imprudent||

    Just to clarify - I'm talking punishment phase only. Still have to convince the jury before any of that kicks in.

  • Evil Otto||

    I thought the whole issue was ensuring that innocent people don't get executed. Your concerns seem a tad petty in comparison.

  • Deacon Blue||

    If I thought that executing thousands of the most brutal criminals would cut the murder rate in the US by 50%, and I also thought that the chances were that one innocent person would be executed by mistake every decade, I would be for that policy, I guess. I'm a pretty long way from a pure utilitarian, but I'm not willing to abandon certain utilitarian ideas. I think there's a calculus here and you have to be willing to do some bean-counting. There is some level at which I would find a low enough probability of executing an innocent person acceptable if it led to a high enough decline in the murder of other innocent people.

    I don't think that the death penalty in the US is anywhere near meeting my standard in this regard, so I oppose it as a practical matter.

    But asking for 100% certainty is too much, I think- it is that kind of thinking that leads to anti-pollution measures that might save one statistical life every twenty years but, through their knock-on effects, lead to hundreds of statistical deaths every year.

  • VG Zaytsev||

    The old school liberal meme that it's better to let 100 guilty go free than punish one innocent person falls apart when you consider the recidivism rate of freed guilty. In reality they are saying that they'd rather have tens or hundreds of additional innocents victimized than be responsible for punishing on innocent person. Which sucks for society and is the reason why the term liberal become completely discredited.

    As you note, the demand for absolute certainty in the criminal justice system is as crazy as demanding absolute safety in any other area of life, cost be damned.

    Yeah it sucks a lot when an innocent is convicted of a crime. It sucks just as much when someone's life is destroyed by a violent criminal.

    The solution is to focus the criminal justice system on real crimes and not nanny state bullshit. End the drug wars, cut the number of criminal offenses on the books by 90% and there will be a lot fewer innocent people arrested in the first place and the ones that are will have more opportunity to prove their innocence.

  • Evil Otto||

    I totally believe that it's better that 10 guilty go free than 1 innocent person be punished. It's not a "liberal" idea in origin, it comes from centuries-old English legal philosophy.

    But...it's better to not make either of those mistakes. As you point out, there are negative consequences of letting guilty people go free too.

  • Deacon Blue||

    OK, but is it better to let 100 guilty go free than to let one innocent be punished? Better to let 100 guilty go free? 10,000? I think that saying that "it's better that 10 guilty go free than 1 innocent person be punished" is a fine way of stating that the burden of proof should be on the prosecution, and that the defendant should be given the benefit of the doubt, but you are going to have to punish people who do things like killing and raping other people.

    Once you start doing that it is almost certain, no matter how much you try to avoid it, that you will punish some innocents. This is why I can't entirely abandon utilitarian consierations.

  • Deacon Blue||

    I agree that we make _far_ too many acts criminal, but that's not directly relevant when we're talking about the death penalty. You won't get the death penalty for cheating on your taxes or inadvertently messing with wetlands. Has anyone been sentenced to death in the US since the re-institution of the death penalty without having been convicted of killing someone? My guess is no, but I haven't researched it so I might be wrong.

    What we need, as you note, is a better criminal justice system. What we are going to get, for the foreseeable future, is the same criminal justice system we have now. I'd be for the death penalty if we had a criminal justice system I trusted, but I don't think that's possible as a practical matter, tbh.

    I also think that it would be nice if things like the "Innocence Project" devoted as much time to the cases of probably innocent people sentenced to life as they do to probably guilty people sentenced to death. But I'm doing neither, and what the "Innocence Project" does is very worthwhile, so I'm not really in a position to complain.

    I'm pretty sure that very few people are found innocent after having been found guilty. Fuzzy evidence can get you convicted but it takes something close to absolute proof to get you un-convicted. And even that isn't enough, in many cases. Overturning a conviction is much harder than obtaining one.

  • Evil Otto||

    So you think locking someone in a rape cage for 70 years isn't that bad.

  • plu1959||

    Not as bad as death. Of course, if a prisoner prefers death, he can always arrange for that.

  • Evil Otto||

    But you're not getting your panties in a bunch over life imprisonment.

    This is my problem with many anti-death-penalty crusaders...they only kavetch over problems with the justice system that lead to unjust death penalties. Once that sentence is commuted it's out of sight out of mind.

  • plu1959||

    I favor prison reform as well. But that's not the topic.

  • Evil Otto||

    So you're trying to repeal life sentences, too?

    Your stated reason for opposing the death penalty is that one innocent person killed is a mark of failure. What about one innocent person locked up in prison for their entire life?

  • Coeus||

    What about one innocent person locked up in prison for their entire life?

    Nothing's stopping them from getting a rock hammer and a poster of Rita Hayworth.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Best prison movie ever. One of the best movies ever period.

  • ||

    You're being purposefully dense Tulpa, and you know it.

    As long as someone is in prison, there's always the possibility of a new trial, new evidence, etc.

    All that is meaningless if someone is dead.

  • Evil Otto||

    Right, like that happens all the time. If you're not on death row there are very limited opportunities to appeal your conviction.

    And I suppose you'll give them the decades of their life between conviction and exoneration back in the unlikely event that they actually do get a shot?

    In for a penny, in for a pound. Work on getting it right during the trial, and furnish a lavish system of appeals (like we do) for death row inmates.

  • Deacon Blue||

    Actually if I were wrongfully convicted of a terrible crime (maybe even if I were rightfully convicted of one, under murky circumstances,) I might prefer to get the death penalty.

    First off, Death Row would probably suit me better than other maximum security accommodations. I'm probably a bit unusual in that, but I'd rather be alone than around people I don't want to be around. On the other hand, I can't go very long without something to do, so regular punitive solitary would be Hell for me. On death row I would be able to be largely alone, but could also have lots of books, and maybe even a go board. I could amuse myself for a long time with just a go board, a copy of "Invincible: The Games of Shuusaku," and some soft-core porn.

    Second, it would take decades for them to manage to actually execute me, and I'm not a young man anymore- I might die before they got around to killing me.

    Third, it would be my best chance of being exonerated. Lots of innocent people are doing life sentences and no one does much about that. But let even a fairly obviously guilty man get sentenced to death and a lot of people start paying attention. Since even life imprisonment would take away something like 90% of the utility of living for me (maybe more, depending on the circumstances) a 15% chance of exoneration would be a good bet for me.

  • Gerholdt||

    War is the sole rationale for the existence of the nation-state. [Google Report From Iron Mountain] The power to kill follows from that by amoral logic.

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    My problem is the death penalty is that it's meted out on the same basis as a conviction(beyond a reasonable doubt). It should be instituted when there is no possible doubt.

  • Evil Otto||

    There's always possible doubt.

  • stuartl||

    Sorry, John Allen Muhammad, aka the Beltway Sniper, earned his execution.

  • ||

    I hate to agree with Professor Pomeranian, but there is always doubt, and you have to add to that willful bad faith by the prosecution. It does happen--Radley has documented many cases--so even then, if you kill someone you're sure about, you still might have not have seen all the evidence.

  • ||

    I'm willing to say there are cases without doubt.

    Public mass-shootings where the guy is taken down while in the midst of his killing spree are pretty straight-forward. There wasn't any doubt about the tower sniper on the UT campus some decades ago. There's no doubt about that maniac in Arizona who shot Giffords. I'm willing to concede there's probably no doubt about the guy in Norway.

    All that being said, I'm still not in favor of the death penalty, because even if it's reserved only for cases like that, eventually, it will be expanded. The only way to prevent that is to not allow it.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    In the cases you mention, there was some dispute over sanity. Doesn't make them insane, but it makes it an issue where the courts might err.

  • ||

    I suppose that's true; I was only thinking about doubt as to the actual physical guilt of the killer.

  • juris imprudent||

    I can't really think of anyone who could possibly be sane and do that shit. So "insanity" is just a dodge.

  • ||

    It should always be pointed out, when the mention of insanity pleas arise, that "insanity" is a legal term, not a medical DX. "Insanity" simply means that the ability to discern between right and wrong is non-existant

  • Evil Otto||

    But you're talking about reasonable doubt there. Possible doubt is a much broader category.

    It's certainly possible for the media and the government to conspire to create the appearance of such a crime, and pay off a bunch of fake witnesses to railroad an innocent man or woman with charges of shooting people on a train or something. Now, that doubt is totally unreasonable, but it is certainly possible doubt.

  • ||

    Improbable doubt is much more narrow.

  • db||

    As the SO of a soon-to-be minted Stats Ph.D., i am curious to hear her take on the actual statistical argument.

  • NL_||

    Racial Justice Act should be scrapped and replaced by Trial By Fire Act. If you can complete the Death Gauntlet obstacle course and answer me these questions three, then you are acquitted and may collected $10,000 cash.

  • Brandon||

    What if I just want the $10,000 cash?

  • Coeus||

    I wonder if the statistics of how often black jurors vote to acquit when they have black defendants are factored into this? Cause I remember the mass celebration in the hallways at school when OJ got off.

  • ||

    That's just impossible. And since you mentioned OJ you are obviously a raaaccccisssttt.

    /sarc

  • JeremyR||

    So basically this law means that from now on, blacks will never get the death penalty when they kill whites?

  • Ice Nine||

    Why is this any different than peremptorily challenging, say, numismatists in the trial of a rare coin thief?

  • ||

    I think to be apples-to-apples the comparison would have to be if numismatists were consistently given harsher sentences, on average, than non-numismatists for the same type of coin thefts.

  • Ice Nine||

    You have your defendant and your potential jurors mixed up. The most we know about the defendant is that he is a (accused) common thief who stole rare coins. The numismatists are (some of) the potential jurors and it is empirically evident that they would be heavily biased against coin thieves.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I would definately like to at least see some evidentuary requirements to bring the death penalty against someone. If all they have is circumstantial evidence it should automatically be off the table, no question. You should at least need either two or more unrelated witnesses (maybe 3?) or audio/video or Physical (DNA/Fingerprint) evidence that you committed the crime. There may be other examples but you get the idea. If they can't pass the evidentuary requirements than life without parole would be the max they could go for.

  • Coeus||

    or audio/video or Physical (DNA/Fingerprint) evidence that you committed the crime.

    I believe that is known as circumstantial evidence. Everything but eyewitness accounts is considered circumstantial evidence. It's actually vastly more reliable than eyewitness testimony.

  • Rich||

    Of course none of this would matter if the death penalty became a thing of the past.

    *cough*crackvspowder*cough*

  • Alice Bowie||

    "race was a materially, practically and statistically significant factor in the decision to exercise peremptory challenges during jury selection by prosecutors."

    Of course none of this would matter if the death penalty became a thing of the past.

    Forget about the sentencing, I would argue that he deserves a new trial.

  • shamalam||

    If the motivation of your peremptory challenges can be questioned, then they are no longer peremptory.

  • Ice Nine||

    Quite obvious, isn't it. However, The Supremes, confusing the Supreme Court for the editorial board of Merriam Webster's Dictionary, have decided that peremptory challenges based on race or gender are invalid.

  • shamalam||

    Why not do away with peremptory challenges altogether?

  • Wholly Holy Cow||

    Ahh, the inconsistency of the True Libertarian!

    A sight to behold.

    Of course it's perfectly okay (legally and morally) while in the heat of the moment to fatally wound an intruder who accidentally enters your home in the dark of the night.

    But if said intruder survives his injuries, is arrested, tried and convicted of murder, why it's CRIMINAL for him to be executed!

    Yippee! I'm a True Libertarian! My oversized sense of self-worth will always save the day!

  • Deacon Blue||

    No, you're just a twat. The reason I am allowed to kill you if you are unexpectedly in my house at 3 AM is that I have no way of knowing what your intentions are. You might be a real criminal who will kill me if I don't shoot first, or you might be a dumb drunk.

    Some drunk guy once crawled through the window in my late sainted mother's house (she was almost sixty at the time) and woke her up by poking her. "Where's Irene?" he asked. My Mom was like.. "Get the fuck out of my house."

    The guy left, and she went downstairs to make some coffee, cause she was up for the day at that point. The guy popped back up in her kitchen going "Hey, where is Irene? Also, can I have a cup of coffee?" It turned out that she didn't need to shoot him- he was just a dumb drunk.

    On the other hand a couple of guys broke into my grandmother's house when she was 60 and raped her. They broke every bone in the left side of her face and most of the bones in the right side. They stabbed her a lot of times. She survived, because she was a tough old bitch who came up in the Depression.

    I'm a pretty big guy, and any asshole who meets me after breaking into my house is going to skedaddle. I've chased a couple of intruders out of my house, when I could have just shot them.

    But a little old lady like my Mom or my Grandma? If someone breaks into their house I'm all for letting them shoot first and ask questions later.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Defending yourself is wrong. Best to just let the criminals/cops/evildoers of various stripes, rape/rob/kill you.

    /libtard

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