Counties With Highest Execution Rates More Likely to Violate Due Process for Defendants

|

Just 2 percent of counties in America are responsible for more than half the nation's executions, and those same counties have been responsible for a disproportionate share of high-profile prosecutorial misconduct and exonerations following wrongful convictions.

In a report released last month, the Death Penalty Information Center found that 2 percent of counties, as well as being responsible for a majority of executions, can also claim credit for 56 percent of the current death row population. What's more, just 15 percent of U.S. counties account for all of the executions since 1976, according to the DPIC.

Read this full article at The Huffington Post.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

66 responses to “Counties With Highest Execution Rates More Likely to Violate Due Process for Defendants

  1. Slightly OT: I saw a little bit of last Friday’s Real Time with Bill Maher because Balko was on that night.

    It’s kind of odd, but the most salient anti-surveillance point was actually brought up by Casey Affleck. He asked why should you be ticketed for running a red light if all that catches you is a camera. I just thought it was good, simple example, and it was brought up by am actor of all people.

    1. Was it an episode worth watching? I could see Mahr being tolerable on surveillance.

      1. To be honest, I didn’t see the whole episode. Just a few clips with Balko, which were good.

      2. That probably depends on who is being surveilled.

      3. Don’t do it. You WILL regret it!

        1. A while back I turned on the TV, and it happened to be on HBO because the TiVo had recorded something on HBO the night before, and Maher’s show was on. The atomic levels of undeserved smugness were so bad that I had to turn it off within about 30 seconds. It was unbelievable.

          1. There’s no way that people sit in that audience without generous compensation.

          2. Stan: What is that?
            Keenan: It’s the smug from George Clooney’s acceptance speech at the Academy Awards.
            Stan: George Clooney’s acceptance speech?
            Keenan: Did you hear it? He talked about how people in Hollywood are ahead of the curve on social mattes. He even took credit for the Civil Rights movement -Look!! The point is… the smug from his acceptance speech has been slowly drifting north since he gave it… and is headed straight for the supercell. The South Park and San Francisco smug is already at critical mass. If it gets hit by George Clooney’s acceptance speech, it will be a disaster of epic proportions. The perfect storm… of self-satisfaction.

  2. Wow – a genuine Balko nut punch EARLY in the week! It’s like it’s Friday ALREADY! Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow….

    BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALKKKKKKKKKKKOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

  3. Does this mean Libertarians are against the death penalty?

    1. Many are. Some on principle, but I’d say mostly because of shit like this.

    2. I’ve recently changed my mind on it given the rash of prison releases based on DNA evidence.

      I’d be for it if the bar was raised from beyond reasonable doubt, to no doubt. If ya catch the guy in the act of murdering people, on uncompromised video…

      …fry em!

      1. I’ve done a 180 as well based exactly on the evidence of so many people wrongly convicted.

        I was all for the death penalty 20 years ago. Now…verrrrrry careful about where I think it might be appropriate.

    3. Some are, some aren’t. I’ve personally changed my mind on it multiple times. I’m kind of with Francisco on this one.

  4. Sort of related.

    Generally speaking, using disparate impact to prove racism is at best, suspect. However, here in New Hampshire, which is over 90% white, there is only one man on death row. And he’s black. That just strikes me as…..unlikely.

    1. I’ll let somebody else say it.

      1. New Hampshire’s a frozen wasteland entirely populated by Masshole rejects?

        1. I was thinking ‘Murican again.

          1. By Mainer2’s comment?

            Nah. I actually agree with being suspicious over simply stating disparate impact.

            Disparate impact is a metric one should always keep their eye on, but it’s not de facto proof of racism in the justice system.

            It may be proof that there are disparities in economic outcomes between the races– outcomes which lead to higher crime rates within certain communities which translate to down-the-road disparities in incarceration rates.

            1. It depends on the statistic. For example, stop and frisk stats, where the vast majority of people stopped were not committing any crime, but were very disproportionately black and/or Hispanic, do indicate racism IMO. The fact that these groups may have higher crime rates is not relevant, since we are not talking about people arrested with just cause, but simply people who were for the most part detained and searched without cause.

              1. but were very disproportionately black and/or Hispanic, do indicate racism IMO

                I agree 100%. I’m just talking about say, simple incarceration rates.

                Disparities shouldn’t be ignored, but the mere existence of one doesn’t = racism.

                1. Agreed.

            2. You’re right Paul.. I misread the comment.

              Not ‘Murican.

    2. Especially when you note that at around the same time that the guy on death row was convicted, a rich white guy was also convicted of a murder that qualified for the death penalty (they are pretty limited in NH).
      The guy who was sentenced to death shot a cop while running away. The other guy hired someone to commit a murder. I’m inclined to think that the victim being a cop had more to do with it than race, but it still seems totally backward to me.

      1. To clarify my point:

        New Hampshire’s last execution was in 1939. According to the 2010 census the population is 1.1 % black. Yet the legal system produces a result that the only man on death row is black. In the last 75 years, the only guy to get the death penalty is black. If justice were applied equitably, that result just seems extremely unlikely.

        1. It does seem unlikely. It’s not as if there haven’t been other cop killers in NH since 1939.

        2. You’re looking at the wrong numbers. Assuming criminality is evenly distributed will get you nowhere.

          1. I assumed no such thing. As I said above disparate results are not necessarily evidence of racism.

            What are the right numbers I should be looking at ?

  5. When reform-minded District Attorney Pat Lykos (a pro-death penalty Republican, by the way) took over in 2008, she set out to look for innocent people convicted under the lock-’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key approach of her predecessors. Since 2008, there have been 11 exonerations Harris County.

    Interesting work by Lykos. As a pro-death penalty Libertarian, I’m 100% for major reforms and even a hiatus on the DP, if we find that it isn’t being administered fairly or justly. I’ve never heard of this Pat Lykos, but props to if she’s willing to seek challenges on something she supports. We need more DAs like this.

    1. I believe Dallas also had a decent DA.

      1. The Dallas County DA’s innocence project:
        http://www.dallasda.co/webdev/…..-of-texas/

    2. As a pro-death penalty Libertarian

      So you think it’s OK for the state to murder its citizens? Especially when the state is comprised of fallible, often deliberately lying individuals who can, have, and will put the wrong people to death?

      1. ^This. I think that some people commit crimes so heinous that they do deserve death, but I simply do not trust the state to run such a program in a fair and just manner. Really, any rate of error with the death penalty is unacceptable.

        1. Yeah. People have been wrongly executed. For me, one case of that is sufficient reason to do away with it altogether. Though I might be convinced to keep it if it only applied to government agents who abuse their power.

          1. Yeah. People have been wrongly executed.

            Nuh uh! Tulpa said that’s impossible! Impossible Tulpa said!

            1. Technically, Tulpa sez that it’s OK to executed innocent people if all the rules were followed. And it’s better to go ahead and execute an innocent person because exonerating them would undermine the public’s faith in the law.

              1. Better that a million innocents die than one Tulpa be allowed to survive.

              2. I remember him saying that the appeals process is so exhaustive that it’s just plain impossible to execute an innocent person.

                1. I remember him saying that the appeals process is so exhaustive that it’s just plain impossible to execute an innocent person.

                  That too. I bet if you cracked his head open, it’d be nothing but peanut butter in there.

                  1. rancid peanut butter, SugarFree

              3. Technically, Tulpa sez that it’s OK to executed innocent people if all the rules were followed.

                Which is wrong. If you’re executing the wrong people with the right rules, go back to start, your rules are wrong. Reform.

        2. Not disagreeing with you, but how would one receive the death that they deserve?

          SLD: If someone harms my family, it will be handled extra-judically.

          1. I’m not advocating they be killed, even if I think they deserve it. My point was that even though I think some people do deserve to die, I’d rather sentence them to life in prison than risk the possibility (or to be more accurate, the inevitability) of executing an innocent person.

          2. Just because someone deserves something doesn’t mean it is good for you to give it to them. Lots of people who deserve to live die too. Unless the person who harmed your family killed your whole family, you are fairly likely to do more harm to your family by giving them what they deserve. I’m all for using whatever force to defend your self and your family, but revenge after the fact will usually be counterproductive. Unless the person is still a danger and free. Then you might have a good reason to do something.

            1. I’m all for using whatever force to defend your self and your family, but revenge after the fact will usually be counterproductive.

              That’s an assumption based on intuition. Is there any evidence that the world is worse off after Westly Allan Dodd was executed?

              1. I think he was talking about playa’s comment about how he would handle the matter personally if someone killed his family member.

              2. That was an interesting read, to say the least.

              3. I’m not denying that it is good and appropriate for some people to be killed, nor that some people deserve death. The world is certainly not worse off with that guy dead. I’m not convinced that it is any better off than if he had just been locked up forever, though.

                1. Considering that he was hanged only 6 months after being convicted, I would say the tax-paying population of Washington is better off for not being forced to subsidize his existence for the next 30-50 years.

            2. Just because someone deserves something doesn’t mean it is good for you to give it to them. Lots of people who deserve to live die too.

              +1 Gandalf

      2. So you think it’s OK for the state to murder its citizens?

        The state killing its own citizens is probably the only power we give to the state with little question.

        We give agency to the state to kill other people all the time. One can argue about context, but police carry guns for a reason (insert need to shoot dog joke here).

        To argue that the state has no right to dispatch the life of someone is dubious.

        I might agree and even be convinced one day that the state can never effectively dispatch human life through the process of the justice system– I happen to think it can, but it needs significant reforms.

        1. But execution is rather different than other circumstances when the state can kill. With execution, there is absolutely no necessity and it is done in cold blood. You could say the same about some acts of war, but war is a rather different case since international law always comes down to might makes right.

          1. But execution is rather different than other circumstances when the state can kill.

            I don’t disagree with that entirely.

            With execution, there is absolutely no necessity and it is done in cold blood.

            Kind of, sure, maybe, I think.

            I’m just not convinced we’re committing some terrible injustice by killing someone who (beyond a reasonable doubt yadda yadda) devastated lives and him or herself committed the ultimate human rights violation possible to fellow citizens.

            To thin the herd in this context just doesn’t strike me making us literally worse than Hitler.

            1. “I’m just not convinced we’re committing some terrible injustice by killing someone who (beyond a reasonable doubt yadda yadda) devastated lives and him or herself committed the ultimate human rights violation possible to fellow citizens.”

              I can’t speak for Zeb, but I don’t really disagree with that. What I’m saying is that the odds that the person being executed is ALWAYS going to be someone who actually devastated lives and committed the ultimate human rights violation possible are virtually zero. That’s not a price I’m willing to pay. No offense intended, but if you think it could never happen, I find that really naive, and if you think executing guys already locked up is worth the risk of killing an innocent, I find that very callous and really think you need to reevaluate your priorities. Handwaving away this inconvenient fact with the yadda yadda in parentheses doesn’t make it go away.

              1. What I’m saying is that the odds that the person being executed is ALWAYS going to be someone who actually devastated lives and committed the ultimate human rights violation possible are virtually zero. That’s not a price I’m willing to pay.

                This is exactly the argument I’m willing to entertain. I still struggle with it. It’s also why I support major reforms of the death penalty, including a complete moratorium on it if we conclude that it can’t be done.

                I’m not a lawyer or judge, so I don’t know what those reforms would look like. I know what they’d feel like, but that’s hardly consolation to an innocent being put to death. It’s also why I wouldn’t be the one instituting the reforms.

                I think that the point that I’ve tried to make over the years is that not every death penalty case hinged on dodgy eye-witness or prison-cell-mate testimony and questionable DNA links.

                Sometimes the guy we caught did it, admitted it, was able to provide details that only the killer knew– basically, all corners of the case is sealed and there’s no question. If there could be a way to reform the DP so only those cases were eligible, I think we’d be doing better.

                If we can’t, then no one will get any argument from me over abolishing the DP.

        2. Guns are not given to the police so they can kill citizens, they are supposed to be for self-defense or the defense of others.

          That they are not used only in the limited way they should be is not a justification for state execution.

          1. Guns are not given to the police so they can kill citizens, they are supposed to be for self-defense or the defense of others.

            That waters the context down. A guns purpose is to place a piece of lead in the body of something which can lead to death.

            We (in the proper circumstances) allow and give agency to police to use this weapon in a deadly fashion to protect the life of others (or the officer).

            This is a right we give to the state. We can nitpick and argue over context. That is fair, but to declare “the state has no right to dispatch a life” is in direct contradistinction to the facts. We give the state weapons of destruction so they can destroy things.

        3. The state has no right to dispatch the life of someone. At the end of the day, it is always an individual who does the killing. So the existence of this construction called “the state” now empowers individuals to kill, where without “the state” they would never be considered justified in their killing.

          If you saw someone lethally injecting a strapped-down person, and it wasn’t “authorized” by the state, what would you think or do? Would you shrug, or go “fuck, it’s Dexter!” and try and stop them? How can one be acceptable, but not the other?

          1. The state has no right to dispatch the life of someone.

            Surely you mean after the fact and after they are no longer an imminent danger to others. Because the state clearly has a right to dispatch the life of others.

            If you saw someone lethally injecting a strapped-down person, and it wasn’t “authorized” by the state, what would you think or do?

            The exact same thing I do when a cop shoots an unarmed prostrate person in the back.

    3. And to give an example of the kind of DA’s we don’t need, here’s another example of how awful the police and criminal justice system are in New York. (Repost from the the last thread, long story short, a 16 years spent 3 years in jail without trial before charges were dropped)

      http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?id=9317078

    4. We still need them, considering Lykos was voted out of office in 2012, after one term. A strong reason for her loss was the butthurt of LE after her office’s policy on not prosecuting accused drug users on the basis of drug residue within paraphernalia.

      Then there was a scandal with the crime lab dry-labbing DUI blood test results…

      Her emphasis on uncovering wrongful death penalty convictions probably didn’t help her chances here either.

      Sorry. At least Craig Watkins is still around in Dallas County.

  6. So avoid Texas and Oklahoma whenever possible?

    1. Add Enema-friendly New Mexico.

  7. Radley’s work was instrumental in turning me against the death penalty.

    In principle, I still believe that some crimes are so heinous that death is the appropriate penalty. In practice, though, I don’t trust the judges and prosecutors with it. I’ve read too many cases of cops and prosecutors deliberately setting out to convict innocent people, racial (and other) inequity in applying penalties, and so forth.

    If we ever start holding cops and prosecutors responsible for egregious misconduct, I may revisit my stance, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

    1. And then there’s the whole public pretender system that exists solely to get plea bargains for the prosecution.

  8. I see no moral or ethical problems with torturing and executing someone that rapes and murders a child.

    And I am absolutely opposed to the death penalty.

    Any system conceived by humans, designed by humans, implemented by humans, and executed by humans is by definition flawed.

    Every possible version of a death penalty system that could be implemented will eventually execute innocent people.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.