Death Penalty As A Deterrent

Mar 28th, 2014 | By | Category: Death Penalty, Katz Litterbox

katz-litter4Capital punishment opponents who claim the death penalty is not a deterrent are simply wrong, and most of them know they are being deceitful

On Thursday the Houston Chronicle published an op-ed by columnist Bill King, former mayor of Kemah, Texas, entitled Death penalty leaves no room for error.  King gives the usual reasons why we should abandon capital punishment, placing special emphasis on his belief that the death penalty does not deter murders.

Here is an excerpt from King’s column:

I also knew that the deterrent effect of capital punishment has always been muddled at best. There have been a number of high-profile studies claiming a measurable deterrent effect. But those studies have increasingly come under critical attack by other researchers. Also, states without the death penalty consistently have lower murder rates than states with it.

Because murders are so frequently crimes of passion, the deterrent argument never made much sense to me intuitively.

Despite their high-profile media coverage, cold-blooded murders, those in which one could argue the murderers might have the presence of mind to be deterred, are actually quite rare. Interestingly, polling shows that the public, notwithstanding its support of capital punishment, has come to the conclusion that the death penalty does not provide much of a deterrent.

Now why has the public come to that conclusion?  It is the result of the incessant bombardment of claims by the opponents of capital punishment that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent.  And when they put forth that claim they are being deceitful.  The death penalty does deter countless premeditated murders and the abolitionists damn well know it.

Let me acknowledge what the death penalty does not deter.  King is right when he says capital punishment does not deter murders committed in the heat of passion.  He is probably right when he says most murders are crimes of passion.  And the death penalty no longer deters felony murders because the gangbangers, dope dealers, burglars, robbers and rapists who kill know that if they are caught and sentenced to death, they will not be executed for 10-20 years, if ever.

There was a time when executions were not delayed by endless appeals.  That’s when the death penalty served to deter many burglars, robbers and rapists from murdering their victims.  When I was a cop, we used to arrest many armed robbers who robbed their victims while using an unloaded gun.  When asked why they did not load their guns, almost all of them would say something like this:  If I carried a loaded gun I might shoot someone in a moment of panic, and I sure don’t want to get topped (executed).”

I doubt King is correct when in his op-ed he says that cold-blooded murders where the killer “might have the presence of mind to be deterred” are rare.  There are far more of those kinds of murders than King thinks.  The reason a killer might not be concerned about the death penalty is because he does not believe he will be executed if caught.

When King says “states without the death penalty consistently have lower murder rates than states with it,” he is basing that statement on misleading statistics.  That claim ignores the demographics of the states that do not have capital punishment.  Most of those states have relatively few urban centers with a high concentration of criminals.  I’ll bet that the murder rates in New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Maryland are not lower now as compared to when those states had the death penalty.  The abolitionists like to point out Michigan as a state with lower murder rates, but if you look at Detroit and Michigan’s other big cities, you will find that the murder rate in those cities is not lower than the murder rate of cities in death penalty states.

Let me conclude by asking:  How many of you have ever given serious thought to killing someone?  I know I have.  There are two reasons why people do not carry out those thoughts.  Some are deterred on moral grounds.  But I suspect that most are deterred by the fear of getting caught and then sentenced to death.  Accordingly, there are countless premeditated murders that are not committed because they are deterred by the death penalty.

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2 Comments to “Death Penalty As A Deterrent”

  1. Phyllis Loya says:

    For all who think our death penalty is a joke, I invite you to help us fix it. It can be fixed and we have an initiative with several common sense reforms. Visit our web site on death penalty reform and send for petitions to sign an have your family members, friends, co-workers, gym pals, etc sign so that we can get this on ballot in November.

    There are 42 cop killers on death row, including the murderers of Sgt. Howie Burchfield and Officer Albert Patch, both of whom were killed wearing a CDC uniform. There are currently 234 child killers on death row. Do your part in fixing our broken death penalty system.

    As the mom of a California police officer murdered by a killer who is on death row, I ask for your help in our battle for justice. Together we can make our death penalty work!

  2. Bob Walsh says:

    When the UK had a functional death penalty there were numerous cases on file where criminals specifically declined to carry weapon, loaded weapon, or even to deliberately commit murder for fear of getting the rope. They had an interesting appeals policy back then. You could appeal to the home secretary, the foreign secretary (depending on who had jurisdiction) or the monarchy. If your appeal did not come in within six months, you got the rope. Period. There was no provision for delay beyond that point. There is no question that, at that time and in the system that existed then, the death penalty WAS a deterrent.

    I believe that, IF we had a similarly functional death penalty here, it would be a deterrent here (California). Since we don’t, it mostly isn’t. Our death penalty is a joke, a sick, sad joke.