Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why I Support Capital Punishment, Part 4

Published 03.12.08 at

To this point in our series on capital punishment, we saw that retribution (rather than rehabilitation, incapacitation, deterrence, or symbolism) is both the only valid reason for executing murderers and also an adequate reason for doing so. But, of course, the other side hasn’t yet responded. Their objections fall roughly into three categories: practical, conceptual, or religious.

Practical Objection 1: It’s unacceptable to execute innocent people.

I agree.

Although any legal system assumes some danger of wrongful convictions, the obvious differences between capital punishment and our other forms of punishment are irreversibility and completeness. Even though all penalties (other than fines) take away things that cannot be returned (time, reputation, relationships, freedom), at least the loss from other punishments is only partial. Execution is total and permanent.

As death-row acquittals have shown, even the plodding deliberation of our legal process with all of its safeguards and evidentiary standards is not enough to guarantee that no innocent people get executed. This is troubling, indeed, and it’s useful to see why the two most common responses fail.

One attempt begins by noting that we bias our system overwhelmingly in favor of the accused. He need not incriminate himself. He is entitled to representation. If convicted, he may avail himself of a ludicrously thorough system of appeals. And the main bias in favor of the accused is his presumption of innocence. Though such safeguards are set even higher for execution, the chance of error is nonetheless real. Merely reducing the chance of injustice on this issue is not enough.

The other attempt describes us as being in a “war against crime,” and asserts that all wars entail “collateral damage” to undeserving victims. The problem with this analogy is that the differences between the pressures of fluid battlefield situations and the capital process are so vast that the analogy becomes useless.

The justification for killing the enemy when doing so entails either the chance or the certainty that noncombatants will be killed comes from the principle of “double effect.” We would avoid harming the innocent if we could, but if practical factors prevent it, we accept the tragedy so long as it is still less than the good accomplished by killing the known bad guys. People often use the medical analogy of cutting off a leg to save the body or killing a few healthy cells along with the cancerous ones. The problem with this is it doesn’t apply to the single individual isolated within a jail posing no imminent threat to anyone. Also, since the only thing justifying killing the innocent would be the certainty of also killing the dangerous, not knowing for sure which one stands before us renders the principle of double effect unhelpful. Also, the protection of other citizens cannot be used because the alternative is LIPWIPP, not release, for a given convict.

So if these replies don’t work, how can I respond, especially since I don’t accept the oft-used deterrence argument? (See parts 2-3.) Well, it’s because I believe we can eliminate such mistakes by having two different standards of certainty. Though guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is already a hefty presumption favoring the accused, it’s clearly not enough to avoid all errors. Nor am I interested in raising it for conviction because that would mean acquitting more offenders. But why not a higher standard for sentencing?

There are two different kinds of capital cases: those with some doubt, but not a reasonable doubt, and those with no doubt at all. If we executed only those people who are guilty beyond any doubt, this objection evaporates. Thus, juries in capital cases would return one of three verdicts: not guilty, guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and guilty beyond any doubt. Regardless of aggravating circumstances, only those in the third category would be eligible for the death penalty. Legislators will doubtless need to more precisely define this new standard, but in principle I’m confident a court can recognize cases that are beyond mistakenness. As an example, consider the case of Timothy McVeigh. People rightly worry that some capital convicts are innocent, but no one worries that he was one of them.

I have one final though on this issue. The Bible makes two instructive points about capital cases: there must be two eyewitnesses, and the penalty for perjury is death. Just as it is right to execute murderers, it is right to execute those who conspire to murder through the legal system, assuming again that the same sorts of standards are satisfied.

Practical Objection 2: Capital punishment disproportionately targets the poor and minorities.

Properly understood, this is really just a variation of the previous objection. The reason for wrongfully executing innocent poor or minority defendants doesn’t really matter. Nonetheless, the argument is gripping to some, so I will respond to it.

Clearly, minorities and the poor are over-represented on death row compared to their percentage in the general population. There are two possible reasons. Either such people are more likely to be convicted or they are more likely to be criminals. The fact that they are disproportionately present on death row fails to tell us which. However, it’s worth noting that another group is disproportionately represented on death row, and no one seems to think it indicates bias in the system: men.

Constituting just 49.2 percent of the population, men are 98.4 percent of death row convicts. This is because men commit the vast majority of murders, not because the system is hopelessly female chauvinistic. Such a fact doesn’t prove that all poor and minority persons on death row are guilty, but it does deflate the claim that their disproportionate representation proves systemic bias.

Another variation is the complaint that the wealthy (having access to superb counsel) or the white (having the benefit of friendly racism) regularly go free despite being guilty. Unfortunately, the fact that a thousand guilty persons are acquitted for irrational factors does nothing to dilute the justice of punishing a single person who actually committed the crime. That wealthy whites avoid just punishment does not give minorities and the poor any reason to complain if they are punished for their actual crimes. I, too, am revolted that anyone who murders would go free for any reason, but the only thing worse than accepting this unsavory fact would be to exacerbate it by under-punishing others in the interests of setting our errors as our standard for consistency.

In the next column, we will look into the conceptual objections raised against capital punishment like “killing is always wrong” or “it’s cruel and unusual.”


dudleysharp said...

You write:

Practical Objection 1: It’s unacceptable to execute innocent people.

What you mist do, in this debate, as in most, when dealing with a policy, is look at both sides, that being:

What is te sik tio innocents with and without the death penalty.

Innocents are mopre at risk without the death penalty.

The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact below

Often, the death penalty dialogue gravitates to the subject of innocents at risk of execution. Seldom is a more common problem reviewed. That is, how innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.
Living murderers, in prison, after release or escape or after our failures to incarcerate them, are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers.
This is a truism.
No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.

Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed.
That is. logically, conclusive.
16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses,  find for death penalty deterrence.
A surprise? No.

Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
Some believe that all studies with contrary findings negate those 16 studies. They don't. Studies which don't find for deterrence don't say no one is deterred, but that they couldn't measure those deterred.
What prospect of a negative outcome doesn't deter some? There isn't one . . . although committed anti death penalty folk may say the death penalty is the only one.
However, the premier anti death penalty scholar accepts it as a given that the death penalty is a deterrent, but does not believe it to be a greater deterrent than a life sentence. Yet, the evidence is  compelling and un refuted  that death is feared more than life.

"This evidence greatly unsettles moral objections to the death penalty, because it suggests that a refusal to impose that penalty condemns numerous innocent people to death." (1)
" . . . a serious commitment to the sanctity of human life may well compel, rather than forbid, (capital) punishment." (1)

"Recent evidence suggests that capital punishment may have a significant deterrent effect, preventing as many as eighteen or more murders for each execution." (1)
Some death penalty opponents argue against death penalty deterrence, stating that it's a harsher penalty to be locked up without any possibility of getting out.
Reality paints a very different picture.
What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
What percentage of convicted capital murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment.
This is not, even remotely, in dispute.
Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
Furthermore, history tells us that "lifers" have many ways to get out: Pardon, commutation, escape, clerical error, change in the law, etc.

In choosing to end the death penalty, or in choosing not implement it, some have chosen to spare murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives.
Furthermore, possibly we have sentenced 20-25 actually innocent people to death since 1973, or 0.3% of those so sentenced. Those have all been released upon post conviction review. The anti death penalty claims, that the numbers are significantly higher, are a fraud, easily discoverable by fact checking.

6 inmates have been released from death row because of DNA evidence.

The innocents deception of death penalty opponents has been getting exposure for many years. Even the behemoth of anti death penalty newspapers -- The New York Times -- has recognized that deception.

"To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row . . . ". ' (2) This when death penalty opponents were claiming the release of 119 "innocents" from death row. Death penalty opponents never required actual innocence in order for cases to be added to their "exonerated" or "innocents" list. They simply invented their own definitions for exonerated and innocent and deceptively shoe horned large numbers of inmates into those definitions - something easily discovered with fact checking.

There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.

If we accept that the best predictor of future performance is past performance, we can reasonable conclude that the DNA cases will be excluded prior to trial, and that for the next 8000 death sentences, that we will experience a 99.8% accuracy rate in actual guilt convictions. This improved accuracy rate does not include the many additional safeguards that have been added to the system, over and above DNA testing.

Of all the government programs in the world, that put innocents at risk, is there one with a safer record and with greater protections than the US death penalty?
Full report -  All Innocence Issues: The Death Penalty, upon request.

Full report - The Death Penalty as a Deterrent, upon request
(1) From the Executive Summary of
Is Capital Punishment Morally Required? The Relevance of Life-Life Tradeoffs, March 2005
Prof. Cass R. Sunstein,   Cass_Sunstein(AT)
 Prof. Adrian Vermeule ,   avermeule(AT)
Full report 
(2) "The Death of Innocents': A Reasonable Doubt",
New York Times Book Review, p 29, 1/23/05, Adam Liptak,
national legal correspondent for The NY Times

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS, BBC and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
Pro death penalty sites 


www(dot)  (Sweden)

Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or part, is approved with proper attribution.

dudleysharp said...

you write:

Practical Objection 2: Capital punishment disproportionately targets the poor and minorities.

I am not sure that is a provable claim.

First, with regard to poverty:

No one disputes that wealthier defendants can hire better lawyers and, therefore, should have a legal advantage over their poorer counterparts. 

But, the US has executed about 0.15% of all murderers since new death penalty statutes were enacted in 1973. 

Is there evidence that wealthier capital murderers are less likely to be executed than their poorer ilk, based upon the proportion of capital murders committed by those different economic groups?

The most dominant capital crime is robbery/murder. How many wealthy criminals vs poor criminals rob stores or car jack cars and then murder the victim?

And you would do the same for police murders, rape/murders, serial or multiple murder, murder for hire, kidnap/murders, etc.

Understandably, you get outrage when a wealthy person avoids what we perceive as a deserved punishment. But only because those are usually well publicized cases. Obviously, many more poor criminals avoid the death penalty.

Yes, OJ not only didn't get the death penalty, he was found not guilty.

But then, again, the defense for Timothy McVeigh likely cost just as much and he's been executed.

dudleysharp said...

Let's look at one minority group- African Americans and the majority group whites:

RACE: No Bias in Death Penalty Sentencing
Dudley Sharp,  Justice Matters, 2/08
contact info below

7 studies are reviewed, herein

For emphasis, population count is totally irrelevant, regarding any consideration of class or race/ethnicity bias in the application of the death penalty. The only relevant factors in such a review are class, race/ethnic distribution of murderers and their victims in capital murders, as well as criminal history, the specific circumstances of the crime(s) and a review of  individual prosecutorial jurisdictions.

Study 1: Drs. Stephen Klein and John Rolph

"After accounting for some of the many factors that may influence penalty decisions, neither race of the defendant nor race of the victim appreciably improved prediction of who was sentenced to death . . . ".

"Relationship of Offender and Victim Race to Death Penalty Sentences in California"(Jurimetrics Journal, 32, Fall 1991, aka The Rand Corporation Study)

Study 2:  Smith College Professors Stanley Rothman and Stephen Powers found that legal variables, such as prior criminal history and the aggravated nature of the murder, are the proven basis for imposition of the death penalty. The black/white variation in sentencing has generally been reduced to zero when such legal variables are introduced as controls.

"Execution by Quota?", The Public Interest, Summer 1994

Study 3: NO BIAS IN DEATH SENTENCING:   U of Maryland's Death Penalty Study (1)

The following are direct quotes from the Executive Summary of the U of Maryland study.

Race of the victim

"The race of the victim effect does not hold up, however, at the decision of the state's attorney to advance a case to penalty trial and at the decision of the judge or jury to impose a death sentence given that a penalty trial has occurred." p 27

In other words, the victim's race has no impact on seeking or
giving death sentences.

"The race of the victim does not appear to matter when the decision is to advance a case to the penalty phase or to sentence a defendant to death after a penalty phase
hearing." page 29

In other words, the victim's race has no impact on seeking or
giving death sentences

"Among the subset of cases where the case actually does reach a penalty trial, the victim's race does not have a significant impact on the imposition of a death sentence." page 35

In fact, the study fails to demonstrate that there is any race of the victim effect in death sentencing in Maryland.

"When the prosecuting jurisdiction is added to the model the effect for the victims race diminishes substantially, and is no longer statistically significant." page 32

In other words, when you look at the capital murder cases, from each, separate jurisdiction, individually, any alleged race of the victim effect cannot be found.

" . . . any attempt to deal with any racial disparity in the imposition of the death penalty in Maryland cannot ignore the substantial variability that exists in different state's attorney's offices in the processing of death cases." p 34

In other words, it is important to look at how each jurisdiction handles their capital cases, because each jurisdiction is different. And when that is done, no bias in death sentencing is found.

Race of victim and defendant

"There is no race of the offender / victim effect at either the decision to advance a case to penalty hearing or the decision to sentence a defendant to death
given a penalty hearing." page 30

In other words, neither the race of the defendant nor the race of the victim have an impact on seeking or giving death sentences.

Race of the defendant

" . . . there is no evidence that the race of the defendant matters at any stage once case characteristics are controlled for." page 26

" . . . we found no evidence that the race of the defendant matters in processing of capital cases in the state." p 26

In other words, Maryland is not looking at race, but is concentrating on the nature of the murders.

(1) Executive Summary:
An Empirical Analysis of Maryland's Death Sentencing System with Respect to the Influence of Race and Legal Jurisdiction,   www(DOT)

Study 4: No Racial Bias in the New Jersey Death Penalty System

New Jersey
For release: February 11, 2003
For further information contact
Winnie Comfort, AOC
(609) 292-9580
Report on Proportionality Released

Trenton, N.J.

The 2002 report essentially mirrors the findings contained in the 2001 report, and may be summarized as follows:

--There is no sustained, statistically significant evidence that the race of the defendant affects which cases advance to penalty trial. Although bivariate analysis reveals that a greater proportion of death-eligible white defendants than African-American defendants advance to the penalty phase, that finding is not supported by regression studies and application of case-sorting techniques. There is no sustained, statistically significant evidence that the race of the defendant affects which cases result in imposition of the death penalty. Again, although bivariate analysis reveals that a greater proportion of death-eligible white defendants are sentenced to death than African-American defendants, that finding is not supported by regression studies and application of case-sorting techniques.
--There is statistically significant evidence that white victim cases are more likely than African-American victim cases to advance to penalty trial, but that finding is eradicated when county variability is taken into account. A disproportionate number of minority victim cases are tried in counties with the lowest overall rates of progression to penalty trial, while less urban counties with a high concentration of white victim cases have higher rates of capital prosecutions. Although Judge Baime notes that county variability may itself be a problem, he offers no opinion on the subject because that issue is well beyond the contours of his report.
--There is no sustained, statistically significant evidence that white victim cases are more likely than minority victim cases to result in imposition of the death penalty

The New Jersey Supreme Court has accepted the 2002 annual report prepared by Judge David S. Baime, a retired Appellate Division judge, on the monitoring of proportionality review in capital punishment cases in New Jersey. The Supreme Court adopted a monitoring system in 2000 to determine whether racial discrimination played a role in the administration of New Jersey's capital cases.

In his capacity as a "special master," a role that requires extrajudicial expertise and work with court-appointed experts, Judge Baime prepared the "Report to the New Jersey Supreme Court: Systemic Proportionality Review Project 2001-2002 Term." .

Judge Baime was assisted by statistical analysts David Weisburd, a professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and The University of Maryland, College Park, and Joseph Naus, a professor at Rutgers University. In an effort to provide the most accurate analysis possible, the monitoring system approved by the Court consists of three different statistical strategies: bivariate analyses, regression studies and case-sorting techniques. In order to establish systemic disproportionality, a defendant must relentlessly document the risk of racial disparity. This requires that the outcomes produced by the three modes of analysis substantially converge, or lead to the conclusion that racial discrimination plays a part in capital sentencing.

The three modes of analysis were applied to three separate decision points: death outcomes at penalty trials, death outcomes among all death-eligible cases, as determined by Judge Baime and the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), and advancement of death-eligible cases to penalty trials. Three identifiable groups--African-Americans, whites and Hispanics--were examined, and possible disparities in terms of the race or ethnicity of the defendant and the race or ethnicity of the victim were considered.

Study 5:   Pro & Con: The Death Penalty in Black and White
by Dudley Sharp
Thursday, June 24, 1999,  6/24/99.
stored at

I don't know about you, but when I get into a discussion about the death penalty, my first thoughts go to the victim and to the brutality of the murder. That is the foundation of the just nature of the death penalty.

Too often these days, however the death penalty is discussed in different terms. Inevitably, with the racial history of this country, the effect of race in the application of the death penalty has become a central part of the death-penalty discourse. This is particularly true as some politicians are making the case for a death-penalty moratorium, in part to consider whether the death penalty is inherently racist.

All too often, however, those arguments are spurious. In the death penalty debate, it should be the facts, and not the hype, that are in be black and white.

A closer look at the statistics

Often such discussion begins with the obvious: the race of the defendant. The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) reports that black murderers represent 35% of those executed, white murderers 56%. As the argument goes, this must be evidence of systemic racism, as blacks represent 12% of the population, whites 74%.

Fortunately, the United States does not execute people based on their population counts but on the murders they commit. As blacks represent 47% of murderers and whites 37%, we see that whites are twice as likely to be executed for committing murder as are their black counterparts.

Furthermore, the Bureau of Justice Statistics says that whites sentenced to death are executed 17 months more quickly than blacks. With 98% of all head prosecutors in the United States being white, according to DPIC, how is such a result possible? Maybe prosecutors, judges and juries are focusing on the crimes and not the race of the defendant.

That is not the case, say anti-death penalty groups, such as Amnesty International, and now the United Nations. If you adjust for the specific aggravating factors present within capital crimes, you find clear evidence of racism.

Death-penalty opponents note, for example, that the Supreme Court, in the famous race-based challenge to the death penalty (McCleskey v. Kemp), found in 1987 that those who murderer whites were 4.3 times more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murder blacks, under similar circumstances.

David Baldus, who did the statistical study on McCleskey's behalf, also completed a recent study in Philadelphia where it is was reported to show that black murderers were four times more likely to receive a death sentence than white murderers. With such results, how can anyone dispute the racist application of the death penalty?

Quite easily.

The Supreme Court, as well as many others, confused odds with multiples. The data reflect odds of 4-to-1, not four times more likely.

What difference does it make?

In Baldus' Philadelphia study, we find that if only 2% more white murderers had been sentenced to death and only 2.5% fewer black murderers had been sentenced to death, then each group would have been sentenced to death by juries at the same rate -- a far cry from the 400% differential stated within the incorrect interpretation of "four times"!

A punishment that fits the crimes

The next issue raised is the victim's race. While blacks and whites comprise about an equal number of murder victims, the ratio of white-to-black victims in death-penalty cases is about 7-to-1. This has given rise to the allegation that the "system" only cares about white murder victims. A horrible accusation, if true.

However, the ratio of white-to-black victims in the aggravated circumstances necessary for a capital murder conviction (rape, robbery, car-jacking, burglary, police murders, serial/multiple murders, etc.) is from 4-to-1 to 8-to-1 -- numbers consistent with the victim ratios on death row.

The final resting place for the racism charge lies within those cases where blacks have been executed for murdering whites and whites have been executed for murdering blacks. There have been 144 blacks and 10 whites executed under such circumstances, or a ratio of 14-to-1. As blacks are about 2.5 times more likely to murder whites than the other way around, there appears to be a huge disparity in such executions. Is racism the reason?

If we look at robbery, the aggravated crime found most often in capital cases, we find that when there is a robbery with injury, the ratio of black robber/white victims versus white robbers/black victims is 21-to-1.

Again, when looking at the circumstances consistent with capital crimes, we find no evidence of racial bias.

The determining factor for sentencing in death-penalty cases is what it should be -- the aggravating nature of the crimes. Both the Rand Corp. study of 1991 and the research presented by Smith College professors Stanley Rothman and Stephen Powers in 1994 confirm that finding. In other words, it appears that any racial variations present within the data are reflective of the crimes themselves and not racial bias within the system. A review of those studies, as well as of criminal-justice statistics, within the context of the aggravating circumstances present within capital murders and the related statutes, produces the same conclusion.

Don't assume the worst motives

There will always be some variables of race, ethnicity and class within any study of criminal-justice practices, and based on historic, as well as current prejudices, we can never lower our guard. Because all studies are subject to poor protocols, bias and misinterpretation, we must make reasoned judgments based on as many respected considerations as we may have at our disposal.

And even if criminal-justice statistics did not show the obvious correlation between crimes and the application of the death penalty, we should note what the Supreme Court stated in McCleskey: "Where the discretion that is fundamental to our criminal justice process is involved, we decline to assume that what is unexplained [by measured factors] is invidious." Sound ideas should not be eliminated based on misguided statistics.

In the case of the death penalty, the facts lead to only one conclusion. No moratorium is necessary.

Study 6: Death Penalty Opponents Distortions are the Real Story

"To properly protect the people in Baltimore City and other jurisdictions like it, we must restore public confidence in and support of capital punishment, so that prosecutors can seek it in appropriate cases, and jurors will impose it. The first step toward that end is to debunk the myth that capital punishment is imposed discriminatorily. The numbers are there, in the opponents's own studies, once we cut through the spin and look at the facts."

Smoke and Mirrors on Race and the Death Penalty, Kent Scheidegger, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, Engage Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 2, 10/2003     www(DOT)

Study 7:          Full Review Finds no Bias

"From 1976-1995, 5 white murderers have been put to death for the murder of black persons and 101 black murderers have been put to death for the murder of white persons (NAACP LDF, 1996). Opponents falsely contend that this is evidence of racism in the "system". That 101:5 ratio, or 20:1, is consistent with  statistics that show aggravated crimes (those crimes committed with the murder which may make a crime eligible for the death penalty) are committed by blacks against whites in far greater numbers than by whites against blacks. For all violent crimes, there are ten times as many black offenders (2,016,939) involved in white victim violent crimes as there are white offenders (210,869) involved in black victim violent crimes, or a 10:1 ratio. (The State of Violent Crime in America, pg. 12,1/96, data derived from Criminal Victimization in the U.S., 1993, BJS forthcoming, tables 42 and 48. Multiple offenders were assumed to be two offenders for calculation purposes.) In addition, blacks are nearly three times as likely to murder whites (849), as whites are to murder blacks (304), or 3:1 (Sourcebook 1994, BJS 1995, table 3.123). IF murder rates are statistically consistent within the violent crime category, as McCleskey et al indicate, then blacks are, statistically, by a 30:1 (10:1 X 3:1) ratio, more likely to murder whites, than whites are to murder blacks, in those circumstances where an additional aggravating factor is present (see C2). These are those crimes most eligible for the death penalty. That statistically projected ratio of 30:1 is hardly inconsistent with the 20:1 ratio for black offender(s)/white victim vs white offender(s)/black victim executions. The most relevant aggravated crime is robbery with injury, wherein blacks are 21 times more likely to be involved in such crimes as are whites. This 21:1 ratio represents 1.4 million black offender(s)/white victim vs. 68,000 white offender(s)/black victim for robbery with injury crimes (JFA, using BJS, 1977-84 data). IF overall murder statistics are consistent, within this crime category, as McCleskey et al suggests, then there is a 30-60:1 ratio of black on white vs white on black murders within this robbery/murder category. (From 1977-1984)."

Excerpt from "C. RACE, SENTENCING AND THE DEATH PENALTY", paragraph No. 5., DEATH PENALTY AND SENTENCING INFORMATION In the United States, 10/1/97, by Dudley Sharp,

copyright 1998-2007 Dudley Sharp

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
email, phone 713-622-5491
Houston, Texas

Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.

Pro death penalty sites 


www(dot)  (Sweden)

Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or part, is approved with proper attribution.

dudleysharp said...

You write:

"I have one final thought on this issue. The Bible makes two instructive points about capital cases: there must be two eyewitnesses".

By wrongly isolating the Hebrew ‘ d, "witness", from its broad biblical context, some interpreters have falsely concluded that two or more "eye"witnesses are required in capital cases and in all criminal cases subject to court judgement (Deuteronomy 19:5).

Did God want nearly all criminals, including murderers, to get off, scot-free, if " . . . (they) had not taken the prudent measure of committing (their) crime where two people did not happen to be watching him?"

The biblical record rejects any such conclusion.

The word "witness", ‘ d, has broad meaning, including, anyone with (1) " . . . pertinent knowledge concerning the crime, even though he had not actually seen it."(Lev 5:1), such as motive, opportunity, accomplices, overheard confessions, wiretaps, etc.; (2) physical evidence can also bear witness, also ‘ d (Ex 22:13), such as bloody clothing, murder weapon, DNA, fingerprints, etc.; (3) written documents may serve as evidence and witness (‘ d or ‘ dah, Jos 25:25-27), such as a confession, documents showing motive or implication, etc.; (4) monuments and memorial stones, such as gal-‘ d in Gen 31:46-49, can also bear witness. Indeed, "there is no contravention of biblical principles in allowing such testimony, even though only one actual witness may be found, or none at all." There is no biblical requirement for two, or any, "eye" witnesses in criminal cases.(Dr. Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Biblical Difficulties, Zondervan Pub., 143-145, 1982, also see the exceptional writings on John 8:11, 371-373, therein.)

NOTE: The "d" sould have a line over it, which is important for meaning.