published Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Right Side Round Table: Should the death penalty be repealed?

Question: Earlier this month, Maryland became the sixth state in six years and the 18th state in the country to repeal the death penalty. Should Tennessee and Georgia follow suit and ban the death penalty or keep capital punishment in place?

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    Drew Johnson, Editor of the Free Press opinion page at the Chattanooga Times Free Press
Do you support the death penalty?

Opposition to the death penalty is nothing new for liberals and progressives. Rallies against capital punishment and candle-light vigils for death row inmates are par for the course for bleeding hearts. But an increasing number of conservatives are also coming to the conclusion that the death penalty fails on a number of levels.

In 2011, public support for the death penalty fell to its lowest level in nearly four decades. That’s because the death penalty drains resources, fails to serve victims’ families and loved ones, is applied more often to poor and minority offenders, does nothing to keep communities safe and can result in the execution of innocent people, according to Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

The group is right on every level.

The death penalty is not successful in even its most basic function — deterring future crimes. Study after study indicates that the death penalty is no more effective at deterring violent crimes than the prospect of life in prison.

Further, the death penalty is an extraordinary expense to taxpayers. A Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury estimate found that death penalty trials cost an average of 48 percent more than trials in which prosecutors sought life sentences, according to Fox News.

Once the trial is over, the expense to taxpayers continues. It is considerably more expensive to house a death row inmate than an inmate serving a life sentence. According to the Tennessee Department of Corrections, a typical inmate costs taxpayers $67.21 per day, while a death row inmate comes in at $96.75 a day — a difference of nearly $270,000 per prisoner over the span of 25 years.

The fear of executing an innocent person is a particularly compelling argument against the death penalty, especially in light of the fact that more than 140 death row inmates have been exonerated since 1973. It makes you wonder how many dozens, or even hundreds, of innocent people have been wrongly put to death by states across the county.

The disturbing prospect of killing even one innocent person is enough to justify abolishing the death penalty. It certainly seems just and moral to allow vicious criminals to spend their lives in prison when the alternative is occasionally killing innocent people.

Even if we lived in a dream world where states never executed an innocent person (and technology may one day make that possible), the death penalty should still be repulsive to conservatives who believe that government’s power should be limited.

What greater power can government have than the authority to kill its own citizens? Once the government is granted that power, there is no logical end to what it can do.

Earlier this month, Sen. Ran Paul, R-Ky., filibustered for nearly 13 hours to protest the possible use of drones to kill Americans suspected of terrorism on U.S. soil. According to Gallup poll released on Monday, 79 percent of Americans agreed that the government should not kill other Americans.

If government extermination of its own citizens is wrong when drones are doing the killing, why should it be any different when the death occurs via lethal injection?

As conservatives, we must rethink the death penalty. Why spend millions of tax dollars on capital punishment when it doesn’t make us any safer, puts us at risk of killing innocent people and enables government to kill its own citizens? Vengaence just isn’t worth the cost.

Barrett Rich

State Rep. R-Somerville

Chairman of the House Health Subcommittee

The subject of capital punishment, in any circumstance, is an unsavory one. However, we must always keep in mind that very few people convicted of murder actually receive the death penalty.

As we know, it is reserved for only the most egregious and cruel of murderers. It is imposed only in cases of aggravating criminal factors, such as the murder of a pregnant woman, or the rape and murder of a child.

Those people convicted and sentenced to capital punishment appear before a jury of their peers. Their cases are sent to appellate courts for review. Hundreds of eyes and ears receive information relating to the case and a great period of time elapses before sentencing is actually carried out.

While capital punishment in our state is not the only deterrent contained in Tennessee law, I do feel it is an important and vital addition to our criminal code.

Joyce House

Mother of an exonerated former death row inmate

Audio clip

Tennessee and Georgia must follow Maryland’s lead and repeal the death penalty. Maryland’s lawmakers realize that the risk of executing an innocent person is all too real. I know it is because it almost happened to my son, Paul House, who sat on Tennessee’s death row for nearly 23 years for a crime he did not commit.

While we waited for years for DNA evidence to be considered by the courts, my son wasted away in prison with untreated Multiple Scleroses which now confines him to a wheelchair. Paul is not a free man today because the system worked. He is free despite the system.

Paul lost decades in prison, and Carolyn Muncey lost her life. After all these years and millions of dollars wasted, no one has been held accountable for her murder. How did the death penalty further the cause of justice for any of us?

Editor’s Note: Charges against Paul House in connection with the 1985 murder of Carolyn Muncey were dropped in 2009 after DNA evidence concluded House did not commit the crime. The new hearing resulted from a 2006 United States Supreme Court ruling that determined there was enough evidence to clear House of the murder charge.

Rev. Stacy Rector

Executive Director of Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

Audio clip

What do we want from our justice system? We want to support murder victims’ families. We want offenders to be held accountable and for our communities to be safe. We want a system that is fair and accurate, not for some, but for all.

Maryland’s lawmakers repealed that state’s death penalty because they concluded that it did not help to achieve these goals. It provides neither swift nor sure justice for surviving families of murder victims but instead focuses on securing death sentences for a handful of perpetrators — sentences which, in Tennessee, take an average of 22 years to be carried out (if ever).

The death penalty system is far more expensive than life without parole and wastes millions of taxpayer dollars that could be better spent supporting victims’ families, closing cold cases, and assisting law enforcement. It is time to repeal the death penalty in Tennessee and Georgia.

Dr. David P. Gushee

Professor of Christian Ethics, Mercer University

Audio clip

States are rushing to abandon the death penalty because it is not good public policy. It does not deter or prevent violent crime, it is not applied in a consistent or rational manner anywhere in America, and it costs too much. The death penalty is also bad public policy because when mistakes occur, the consequences are lethal. I don’t trust fallible governments with this much power.

As a Christian, I oppose the death penalty because I believe that Jesus Christ is for life, not for death. If there is any way to solve a human problem that does not require violence, then that is the path we should take. Murder should be deterred if possible, and murderers should lose their freedom to kill again. A certain life sentence for murder, every time, meets this goal.

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AndrewLohr said...

Abolishing the death penalty guarantees injustice for the victims of murder. Right now there's at least a slim chance of justice.

The editorial failed to name anyone who has actually been executed in the US and proven innocent. Its vaporous fears remind me of liberals who impose malfunctioning monstrous programs on the taxpayers lest one person suffer, thus causing massive suffering.

We Christians do know one innocent Man who was executed by the only superpower of His days. Was the death of Jesus Christ merely an accident, or did it have something to do with justice? Of the two terrorists executed with him, which one went to Heaven, the one who admitted he deserved the death penalty he was receiving, or the one who asked for a stay of execution?

Five abortionists, who commit murder for hire, have been murdered. At least one of the murderers was executed. Are murderers of abortionists a minority that gets the death penalty too often?

March 28, 2013 at 6:30 a.m.
jjmez said...

Andy if there are accused being exonerated after sitting on deathrow for years, decades even, there are innocents who have surely been executed.

The most troubling case is that of Cameron Willingham, who was convicted of murdering his 3 children in a house fire in 1991, convicted in 1992 and executed in 2004.

Here's a link to potentially innocent people who have been executed:

March 28, 2013 at 9:22 a.m.
conservative said...

It has to be the money. It just has to be the money.

It has to be the money to be made by so many in keeping convicted murderers alive.

the money to be made by lawyers in the appeal process.

the money to be made by judges in the appeal process.

the money to be made by legal clerks in the appeal process.

the money to be made by prison guards while the appeal process goes on.

the money to be made by those who provide the meals while the appeal process goes on.

the money to be made by those who provide clothing while the appeal process goes on.

the money to be made by those who provide toothpaste, soap, haircuts etc. while the appeal process goes on.

the money to be made by those who provide medical care while the appeal process goes on.

the money to be made by those who provide dental care while the appeal process goes on.

the money to be made by those who are paid for the phony studies that declare the death penalty is not a deterrent.

March 28, 2013 at 10:29 a.m.
LaughingBoy said...

Conservative has it right. It should not be a 20+ year process from conviction to the needle or chair. Appeals should be limited unless new evidence is found or entered.

Cases such as the Colorado theater shooting, the guilty party could be taken out behind the barn and done away with immediately, relatively speaking. For others when there could be possible doubt, life imprisonment. Many, many cases, there is no possible doubt. The needle or chair should be used within a year of conviction.

March 28, 2013 at 12:44 p.m.
Handleit said...

The death penalty is a difficult issue. Should we execute or not? I think the death penalty in it's simplest form is a strong incentive not commit a crime. But it does not appear to be working very well.

A good example is Texas. As one comedian likes to put it on national TV, Texas is puttin' in and express lane. If that were actually the case it would appear that the death penalty does not stop crime.

Leave the death penalty on the books but set limits to how it is used. Set the rules firmly to protect against executing an innocent person. But by the same token don't allow excessive appeals. If execution is warranted, then do it in a timely fashion so that victims families don't have to be re-live the hurt time and time again.

March 28, 2013 at 1:47 p.m.
shen said...

The death penalty is too flawed and the criminal justice system has become far too corrupt to just leave up to an individual being found guilty or not. There's been cases of prosecutorial misconduct, complicit judges and lying expert witnesses, police fabricating reports and intimidating witnesses with threats for the prosecution side to just leave it all up to the system to do the right thing.

March 29, 2013 at 10:21 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

AndyLohr there is never "justice" for the victim, to assume you can get it puts you in God's shoes. To kill is to kill. It is abhorrent for anyone or institution to do and one evil does not right another evil.

This country's legal system (Constitution and Bill of Rights) is based on one premise: it is far better for a guilty person to escape conviction that for an innocent one to go to jail (or be executed).

March 29, 2013 at 1:26 p.m.
dudleysharp said...

Few Conservatives Embrace Anti Death Penalty Deceptions Dudley Sharp

The newest anti death penalty trend is to present conservatives who oppose the death penalty, now spearheaded by a group called Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty (CCATDP), funded and founded by another liberal anti death penalty group, Equal Justice USA.

They are no different than standard anti death penalty folks, in that they either present known deceptions, as does CCATDP, or they, simply, accept those frauds, or otherwise presume, without investigation, as do Ron Paul, Richard Viguerie and others quoted by CCATDP.

The most accurate, recent poll (Angus Reid, April 2013) found 86% death penalty support, with only 9% opposing all execution (1a), the highest and lowest, respectively, that I have ever seen.

As a rule Republicans/Conservatives show (more discretion and) higher support, plus 3-6% (1b), within some polls.


With CCATDP , deception would come naturally, as a creation of Equal Justice USA.

The rebuttal of CCATDP is so extensive, I had to put it within another post at footnote (2), as well as the rebuttal of Montana CCATDP (3), which was the inspiration for the national CCATDP.

Rebuttal: Ron Paul

Ron Paul used to support the death penalty, but has switched, citing two reasons for his opposition: the risk of executing an innocent, due to an incompetent government, and that there is a disparity, based upon class, of those sentenced to death and/or executed.

He has bought into the anti death penalty frauds, without fact checking them, a common liberal problem, now infecting some libertarians and conservatives.

Balance at

================================ l

November 21, 2013 at 7:37 a.m.
dudleysharp said...

Don't make the mistake of accepting anti death penalty material without fact checking it, just as CCATDP distributes it.

Protecting the Innocent

To date, in the modern era, the death penalty is 99.6% accurate in convicting the actually guilty and 100% accurate in correcting that 0.4% error rate, by releasing those actually innocent sent to death row (1).

I doubt that there is a safer sanction or a more accurate government program.

The anti death penalty assertions, to the contrary, have been revealed as frauds, since 1999 (1).

The death penalty is better at protecting innocent lives, in three ways, than is life without parole (LWOP) (1).


As a rule, without exception, the cost studies do not provide an apples to apples comparison to LWOP, they are intentionally deceptive and/or the results have been perverted by the anti death penalty folks (2)

I fact checked them (2). I hope you do so, as well.

Virginia executes within 7.1 years, on average, has executed 70% of their death row murderers (110) since 1976 and has an overturning rate of only 11% (2), a protocol that all states could duplicate, and save money over LWOP, if the liberal obstructionists would get out of the way.

1) The Innocent Frauds: Standard Anti Death Penalty Strategy and THE DEATH PENALTY: SAVING MORE INNOCENT LIVES

OF COURSE THE DEATH PENALTY DETERS: A review of the debate and MURDERERS MUCH PREFER LIFE OVER EXECUTION 99.7% of murderers tell us "Give me life, not execution"

2) Saving Costs with The Death Penalty

November 21, 2013 at 7:41 a.m.
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