Bring Back Old Sparky

Does capital punishment deter crime? Is the death penalty in violation of the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendments? Is it wrong for government to put a person to death as punishment for that person illegally taking another’s life?

Questions about capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, have been repeatedly asked and answered thousands of times in court cases heard. All major outcomes eventually landed in the highest court of the land. The United States Supreme Court has stated the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for the most vicious bloodthirsty murders that man commits. The court has determined the death penalty is applicable with certain exceptions: Convicted murderers with a history of mental retardation or mental illness are not allowed to be executed per Atkins v. Virginia, 2001. In Roper, Superintendent, Potosi Correctional Center v Simmons, 2005, the Court held that a person under the age of 18 at the commission of the crime could not receive the death penalty.

When determining whether race of offender or race of victim played a role in receiving the ultimate sentence, the Supreme Court stated that simple statistics are not enough evidence of racial biased. In Greg v Georgia, 1976, the court sought to eliminate arbitrary sentencing; the Supreme Court mandated a bifurcated trial structure in capital punishment cases. If a judge or jury pronounced a guilty verdict in a trial, a separate sentencing trial would be convened and determine whether capital punishment was the appropriate sentence. In 2002, in Ring v Arizona, the court further determined that a jury would decide whether capital punishment is the appropriate punishment, not relying on a single judge.

Through years of judicial reviews, the United Stated Supreme Court has affirmed the right of our states and our federal government to issue capital punishment as a sentence despite fierce opposition from liberal groups. These groups continually brought litigation and repeatedly failed to change the court’s mind about the legitimacy of capital punishment, so they changed their focus from legality to cost effectiveness. They forced the introduction of the automatic appeal. Now it would take years for the trial outcome to be finalized. They used state habeas corpus petitions and federal habeas corpus appeals to drive up costs. They persistently litigated about the drugs administered during the execution process. If a drug being used was expired by a day they would seek injunctions to halt any capital punishment from taking place. They sought ways to increase the time frame from conviction to execution in order to make it cost prohibitive. A capital punishment court case costs, depending on the state, between $400,000 and $3 million dollars from start to finish. It also takes an average of 20 years before the court ordered execution is carried out. In the meantime, it costs taxpayers approximately ninety thousand dollars per year to keep an inmate on death row.

These anti-capital punishment crusaders continue to make court ordered sentences extraordinarily expensive and are determined to price it out of the sentencing tool bag of our courts.

I offer a solution and a recommendation: Congress holds the power to establish courts. They can appoint a small number of three judge panels at the federal appellate level to focus strictly on capital punishment appeals. They could automatically review any trial court findings for procedural errors, review court cases for substantive due process, all evidentiary issues, automatically review DNA evidence, and analyze any legitimate concerns of defense attorneys. This entire process should be accomplished by competent specialists and completed within a 12-month period. Completion of the review should allow the proper implementation of a court ordered punishment in a timely fashion.

These new capital punishment courts could save taxpayers billions of wasted revenue dollars. A perfect example of cost savings is Charles Manson and his followers. Combined, they account for 220 years in the California prison system to date. Assuming $40,000 dollars per year, their collective incarceration has cost the taxpayers close to nine million dollars. Think of the uses for this money; starving children, homeless vets, mental treatment as well as drug treatment, etc.

With the daily shootings and killings taking place in our cities, a renewed emphasis of retribution in the form of capital punishment would most certainly force some of these shooters to pause and rethink their actions. If there was a display of tough justice for senseless murders, these gang members and thugs would be fearful of taking another’s life. Deterrence is the goal of the criminal justice system. Bring back Old Sparky and reestablish people’s faith in the criminal justice system.