DEATH PENALTY: NEGATIVES OUTWEIGH POSITIVES

This article appears today in four Treasure Coast newspapers (TC Palm) from Vero Beach to the Palm Beaches

Marshall Frank: Too many negatives to preserve death penalty

Marshall Frank is an author and retired South Florida police detective who lives in Melbourne. Online: MarshallFrank.com.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Many folks are pleased that Brevard County cop killer Brandon Bradley was sentenced to death for the deliberate and horrible murder of Deputy Barbara Pill. If anything would justify capital punishment, this would be at the top of the list.

About the same time Bradley was being sentenced, another ruling came down from the Florida Supreme Court. It ordered a new trial for death row denizen Paul Hildwin, after DNA tests showed that the real killer of Vronzetti Cox in Hernando County was the victim’s boyfriend, not him. Hildwin, who claimed innocence since his arrest, has spent nearly 30 years in a 6- by 9-foot cell, 24 hours a day, ostensibly an innocent man.

Having served most of my 30-year police career in Miami-Dade County Homicide, I am usually (not always) more conservative than liberal. However, these kinds of cases, plus other factors, have swayed my thinking.

Capital punishment must be abolished. Here are five reasons why:

1) Cost. Death penalty cases cost the taxpayer far more for defenses and appeals over a period of years. One study showed the state would save $51 million a year by imposing life without parole sentences to killers, rather than death. Since 1976, 44 executions have cost Florida taxpayers an average of $24 million each.

2) No deterrent. Every study conducted across the nation has revealed that the death penalty has no significant impact on the thinking and motivations of potential murderers. Bradley thought nothing about the death penalty when he pumped those bullets into Deputy Pill.

3) Economic inequities. Poor defendants who rely on court-appointed attorneys simply cannot afford independent investigators or costly extended evidence testing to work on their behalf. ompare the O.J. Simpson case, where evidence abounded pointing toward his guilt, yet he was able to afford a dream team.

4) Violates the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. The average time inmates spend on death row before execution is nearly 16 years. Many remain on death row for decades. Gary Alvord spent 40 years on death row until he passed away of natural causes in May. This is tantamount to life, plus death, in other words, cruel and unusual punishment.

5) Executing the innocent. Punishing a vicious killer is important. But protecting innocent people is equally, if not more, important. Sadly, the criminal justice system makes mistakes. Since 1976, 144 Death Row inmates have been exonerated in America, some because of faulty testimony, others through DNA testing, and more. With the count at 24, Florida ranks No. 1 in exonerations from death row, followed by Illinois and Texas. The Death Penalty Information Center has published a list of 10 inmates, already executed, whose innocence was likely. Death ends the appeal process.

It’s not worth the life of any innocent person to gain retribution by executing the guilty. We cannot trust a system that has proven itself so fragile.

Consider, also, death is an escape from punishment for those who are guilty. Life in a 6- by 9-foot cell is far more terrifying.

Time to say goodbye to capital punishment.

27 Responses to DEATH PENALTY: NEGATIVES OUTWEIGH POSITIVES

  1. Eileen July 8, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    I never realized the cost difference between the death penalty and life imprisonment without parole. For me, the major reason against the death penalty would be number five on your list. Thanks for the info, Marshall.

  2. marv July 8, 2014 at 10:25 am #

    !44 since march ; 2014, I stopped counting at 232 about two years ago. But you’re right. the process is an invertible case of diminished returns in every way imaginable.The figure that you provide ( considering capital alone, multiply the number of case’s. Can we use that money to house some veterans???

  3. Harold Swift July 8, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    As much as I hate to agree with you, I must. A mistaken execution is enough reason to stop and there have been many I am sure. Enough said about that.

  4. Ed Reese July 8, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    While I detest most of the murderers on death row, I agree with Marshall. There is no recourse for a person wrongfully put to death.

  5. Helen Bennett July 8, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    I agree with you on this, Marshall.

  6. Jose July 8, 2014 at 11:15 am #

    I’m surprised by your position. Strangely, you’ve got me thinking that you are probably right. The cost and length of time of the appeal process certainly makes one stop and think. Legal system being what it is sometimes, executing the innocent seems more likely these days.

    Good topic, good thinking, Thanks!

  7. Larry and Margie Epstein July 8, 2014 at 11:22 am #

    From our conversation in your living room, you know that I concur with your position completely. Keep reading and writing…and thinking, my oldest friend.

  8. Dale Doelling July 8, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    I read your column in the P/J today and, for what it’s worth, I couldn’t agree with you more. The Death penalty needs to be abolished!

    Regards,

    Dale F. Doelling, Chairman
    Libertarian Party of Indian River County

  9. Steve Gure July 8, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    Allow me to disagree with you.
    1. The cost factor is the direct result of our flawed criminal justice system. It could and should be corrected.
    2. No deterrent? This is also nonsense. I don’t believe it. The ones who commit heinous crimes will not be repeat offenders.
    The rest of the reasons against the death penalty are also the product of the inefficient criminal justice system. It could easily be corrected if we could get rid of the lawyers or, at least, restrict those who mostly benefit from this system.
    Finally, to be confined in a small area with 3 meals a day, clean sheets, medical care, etc. is not much of a punishment for perpetrators of these terrible crimes. My very best to you.

    • marv July 9, 2014 at 10:39 am #

      I agree with you for the most part but in a certain country they would cut off the hand which the thief did steal. There were a lot of men with no hands and those men who witnessed this thought that the thief was not good at stealing. There is always a better mouse trap and as long as we are talking about human beings judges, doctors, politicians, policemen and preachers will and do , do all things imaginable.

  10. Larry Henry July 8, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    The high cost of sentencing murderers to death can be traced back to Washington, DC, liberal pussies, and greedy lawyers. Marines didn’t take many prisoners on Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
    Solution: Don’t bring in the really bad murders.

  11. Donald Gilleland July 8, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    While the prevailing wisdom suggests the death penalty is not a deterrent, the truth is that there is no recidivism among the executed. They never kill again. Nevertheless, that is not enough justification to risk executing innocent people, and life in prison without the possibility of parole is far cheaper than executions–because of the outrageous cost of appeals. The bottom line is that we have documented instances in which we have executed more than 100 innocent men. Why innocent men? Because we rarely execute women or wealthy men. In society’s addled minds it’s OK to execute men, but we should spare the lives of women!

  12. bob james July 8, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    Wow, there sure are a lot of doves out there regarding the death penalty for murder. People who do not suffer directly from murder are more likely to be persuaded to think the death penalty is inhumane.

    I am a hawk on the death penalty for premeditated murder and murder in the first degree. I am also in favor of a mandatory, no-appeal death sentence for drug dealers. You cannot imagine how quickly the drug problem here in the United States would dry up when drug dealers realize they will be put to death quickly and with no possibility of appeal when they are convicted.

    Only one reason and one reason alone is needed to argue for the death penalty.

    1. It is a fool-proof deterrent to future murders. An executed murderer will never kill anyone again. Regarding drug dealers, anyone who doesn’t think a drug dealer isn’t a murderer just because he doesn’t “pull the trigger” directly is hopelessly naive.

    The doves continue to worry about the conviction of an innocent person for murder, but this has become somewhat of a “red herring” over the past several years. The current state of the art of scientific criminal investigation and crime scene forensics (DNA profiling, hair & fiber analysis, fingerprint technology, toxicology, etc.) is so good that it essentially precludes the conviction of an innocent person while pointing directly and unmistakably at the guilty party.

  13. ROBERT ELLIOTT July 8, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    THIS TIME YOU TOUCHED ON A REAL SUBJECT AND OVER THE YEARS I’VE CHANGED MY MIND ON ALOT OF THINGS, BUT I STILL SUPPORT THE DEATH PENALTY AND I GUESS IN MY LATE YEARS I’VE REALLY BECOME A RADICAL AFTER SEEING HOW HUMAN BEINGS IN GENERAL LIVE ONLY FOR THEMSELVES AND SOME WHO HOLD NO VALUE ON HUMAN LIFE AT ALL.
    THE DEATH PENALTY WAS NEVER INTENDED TO BE A GENERAL DETERRENT, BUT IT SURE AS HELL DETERS THE PERSON THEY EXECUTE FROM COMMITTING ANOTHER CRIME. IF IT HAPPENS TO DETER SOMEONE, GOOD. THAT’S A GOOD FRINGE BENEFIT FOR CAPITAL PUNISHMENT. IF IT ISN’T, SO BE IT.
    LET ME SHOW YOU HOW RADICAL I’VE BECOME OVER THE YEARS OF SEEING HUMAN TRASH KILLING OTHER PEOPLE AND SOME MURDERED FOR ABSOLUTELY NO REASON AT ALL EXCEPT TO GIVE SOME HUMAN WASTE A HIGH FEELING FOR TAKING THE LIFE OF ANOTHER. I AGREE WITH VLADIMAR PUTIN OF RUSSIA, NOT EVERYONE SHOULD BE ENTITLED TO “DUE PROCESS”.
    WHEN A PERSON IS CAUGHT WITH THE SMOKING GUN SO TO SPEAK AND THERE’S OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE THAT HE COMMITTED THE CRIME AND HE CONFESSES TO IT, THEN WHY DOES THE STATE GIVE UNTOLD THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS TO SEE THAT THE SCUM GETS A DEFENSE. OH YES, HE HAS A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO A TRIAL AND COST THE TAXPAYERS THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS AND THEN THEY CAN HOUSE HIM FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE. HE BECOMES INSTITUTIONALIZED AND THINKS NOTHING OF BEING JAILED AND AS A MATTER OF FACT BECOMES QUITE CONTENTED WITH HIS LIFE. NO MORE WORK OR PROBLEMS, JUST A LIFE OF LEISURE WITH ALL HIS BUDDIES.
    THEN WE HAVE THE ARGUMENT THAT WE SHOULD DO AWAY WITH CAPITAL PUNISHMENT BECAUSE WE MIGHT EXECUTE AN INNOCENT PERSON. I’M SURE EVERYONE SITTING ON DEATH ROW SUPPORTS THAT ARGUMENT.
    EVEN CONSIDERING THE APPEAL PROCESS AND ETC., YOU’RE NOT GOING TO CONVINCE ME THAT IT COST MORE TO SENTENCE SOME MORON TO DEATH THEN PROVIDE HIM ROOM AND BOARD FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE.
    JUST ONE GOOD JOLT OF ELECTRICITY OR THE PRICK OF A NEEDLE IS WHAT A MURDERER NEEDS AND DESERVES.
    YOU CAN REST ASSURED OF ONE THING, IF SOMEONE MURDERS ANYONE IN MY FAMILY I WILL PERSONALLY SEE THAT THEY ARE DEPRIVED OF DUE PROCESS..

  14. Howard Bernbaum July 8, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

    Would you preach that sermon to the families of William Cruse’s 6 victims? That took place in April 1987 and he is still waiting execution 27 years later. For people with the mindset of Cruse, prison confinement is hardly punishment and the taxpayers are footing the bill.
    Clean up the law and cut out the bogus legal shenanigans accompanying criminal cases and there would be no monetary argument pertaining. When it is an open and shut case, such as this, the mad dog needs to be put down and immediately.

  15. Marc Hyden July 8, 2014 at 4:21 pm #

    Increasingly conservatives are expressing their concerns about the death penalty system. Go to http://www.conservativesconcerned.org to find out more.

  16. Charlie July 8, 2014 at 4:25 pm #

    Got to disagree with you on this Marshall. It sure does deter the executed ones.
    The real problem is not setting a time limit for appeals. One year should suffice.

  17. Larry Usoff July 8, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

    Marshall, I have to differ with you on the case for/against death penalties.
    1. Speedy trials cut down on the time waiting to go TO trial. Dockets can be cleared quickly if the judge, jury, and protagonists are up on their game.
    2. Once a person is found guilty, they will have 5 years from the day they are sentenced to the death penalty, to bring new evidence, have it appealed and/or overturned.
    3. One large-caliber bullet to the back of the head is quick, painless, and cheap. I have even devised a “helmet” to catch the “debris”, and it can be hosed out after each use.
    4. As for being a deterrent, no killer, once executed, has ever committed another crime. (smile)

    Larry Usoff, US Navy Retired
    Duty. Honor. Country.
    http://www.AirHumanityRadio.net (listen and be informed)
    Stay safe, stay true, and stay locked and loaded!

  18. Fred Ingley July 8, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    Marshall, if there was such a thing as LIFE IN PRISON WITHOUT PAROLE I too would become an advocate of abolishing the death penalty. However history has proved that no matter how horrible the crime, and, how strong the public opinion is that “This person shall never be on the streets again!” too often after much about the incident has been forgotten some paroling authority, with all its great wisdom (Or actually complete lack there of.) decides that it’s time to parole this individual.
    As a former Parole & Probation Officer I recall cases where such “brilliant decisions” were made only to have that individual’s parole revoked due to him/her committing another horrible crime.
    If you recall, in 1973 (Think that was the year.) the US Supreme Court declared the death penalty as it then stood as being unconstitutional. Thus all US death penalty cases were automatically commuted to “Life In Prison.” The Parole Commission later decided to parole some of these individuals, figuring that “They were ready for parole.” If my memory serves me correctly I supervised one or more of these cases which had to have parole revoked for a new horrible crime. Had these individuals remained incarcerated, several innocent persons would not have been murdered.
    As I have personally observed, and have read about other heineous crime in which the perputrator was sentenced to “Life in Prison Without Parole”, some paroling agency knew better and later put that person back on the streets.
    Again, if “Life Without Parole” really meant “Life Without Parole”, I’d be marching in protest to do away with the death penalty. Until that happens I’ll continue to support it.

  19. Snake Hunter July 8, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

    Common murderers deserve life in prison w/o possibility of parole… is fine with me.

    * Traitors – kidnappers – suicide bombers, and those that send them here to the land of the free…have earned a military tribunal, and whatever judgement that follows. – reb

    http://www.lazyonebenn.blogspot.com
    ___ ___

  20. John Robey July 9, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    This is really a no brainer for me….even in the absence of errors, I do not believe we have the right to take a life in retribution.

    That of course is just my belief, but so beyond that is the reality that “the instant” we execute an innocent person (something that has certainly happened) we….”our society” has become the essence of that we are seeking to execute. In the greater reality who judges us?

  21. David Waksman July 9, 2014 at 11:30 am #

    Two of my guys also died of natural causes on Death Row, one, the killer of a MIami PO. One recent article said there are over 25 inmates on the row over 30 years (Not our fault. I blame the judges for that). I did an article a while back on John Ferguson, finally put to sleep for eight murders committed in 1977. Also Manny Pardo finally went last year for killing nine in 1986.

    (Note: Dave Waksman is a retired prosecutor from Miami-Dade SAO. We both examined the scene of Ferguson’s killings. MF)

  22. SharG July 9, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    Marshall I had been a believer in the death penalty if there was a large amount of evidence against the defendant.. That changed when Barry Scheck (he explained DNA in the Simpson trial). and changed my mind when Scheck and his Partner Peter Neufeld created the “Innocence Project” and they found many on death row innocent. No, I didn’t like his tactics in the Simpson trial as he cross examined, and bullied, the LAPD criminologist and placed blame on the LAPD by arguing that they had planted and contaminated evidence.

    It seems to me that torte reform is one of the steps we should take and another to penalize any lawyer that takes a frivolous case and suspend his license for a period of time. That would save a tremendous amount of tax payers monies plus free up court dates for “real” cases.

    Now, if you could just stop some of the lawyers, on both sides, from lying it would be an almost perfect world wouldn’t it?

    • Steve Gure July 11, 2014 at 10:01 am #

      Barry Sheck is nothjing but a hypocrite. He firmly believes in the DNA process except when the evidence points to hjis client {O.J. Simpson) Than it becomes degraded, unreliable etc} He has alot to attone for.

  23. Dick Calvert July 9, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

    Hi Marshall,
    Sorry but i will never agree with you on this issue. Neither will the victim’s families and loved ones. Your remark about the small,space the criminal must live in being cramped or very small is misleading because as you and I both know, they do not spend twenty four hours a day in that cell. There are exercise yards and gyms at most prisons. I will agree that it is very unfortunate when the wrong person gets incarcerated. But instead of changing the entire system by eliminating the death penalty why isn’t there a hue and cry for speedy justice? All attorneys are not evil but there are some that hit the weak spots of the system to win freedom for those that should not be free to go back into society to victimize many others.. The system needs to be better but not at the victims expense!

  24. Brenda Homefield-Rosenzweig July 9, 2014 at 3:17 pm #

    Re Capital Punishment, I have empathy only for the victims and their families-NOT the perpetrators of the crimes. The Death Penalty is the only assurance that a murderous beast can’t be set loose to kill again. It is not so much vengeance as the Duty of society to protect its innocent citizens.
    As far as errors …technology makes it feasible to go above and beyond a reasonable doubt.
    There aren’t enough law enforcement officers to keep our citizenry truly safe…shootings committed daily by remorseless bastards. When/IF they are ever caught and convicted with absolute evidence, (DNA) for example, then I would have no problem pulling the switch. Enough empathy for murderous, wanton sub-humans who think nothing of snuffing out another’s Right to Life, or to live un maimed .
    If God forbid anything violent happens to someone I love, then perpetrator, Beware.
    We have somehow become too sympathetic to prisoner’s rights. It takes about three minutes to painlessly euthanize ones poor dog when having to put it out of its misery, painlessly. Surely the same process, around $300,00 should cover all chemical related expenses.
    BTW, I am pro-life . How ’bout we do more to protect INNOCENT Lives?

  25. Rick Schuster July 25, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

    I too think that the death penalty is far too risky to employ. Humans make mistakes. The death of one innocent person is not worth the trade off. For those that are worried about expense, release nonviolent drug offenders from prison. They account for nearly half of our prison population. I don’t mean traffickers either. But a nonviolent user that has no felony count can be rehabilitated much more inexpensively than they can be incarcerated. Mandatory minimum sentences for personal use drugs are filling our prisons, and depleting our recourses.