Sunday, 14 January 2007

MSM figuring out death penalty is dying

January 14, 2007

MSM figuring out death penalty is dying

Though I have been talking about the slow death of the death penalty for more than two years (see here and here for early buzzing), the mainstream media is now finally starting to cover the story extensively. On Friday, ABC News had this piece focused mostly on lethal injection issues entitled, "Death Knell for the Death Penalty?" And today, the Washington Post has this intriguing piece entitled "Dead End -- Capital Punishment: At a Crossroads, or Is This the Exit?"

The provocative Post piece provides a look at these issues in a way that should really appeal to law-and-literature types. It also includes these notable insight:

Americans (including the president) do support the death penalty. They do so at 67 percent, though their betters -- newspaper editorial writers, the French -- tell them they shouldn't. The United States is one of four countries that account for about 95 percent of the world's executions (the others being China, Saudi Arabia and Iran).

Americans support it three decades after all of Western Europe stopped, calling it outdated, unfair and barbaric. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch -- oh, you know. Opponents generally portray it as being on its way out, though that is hardly clear.

Two months ago, voters in Wisconsin asked to reinstate the death penalty -- 153 years after abolishing it. The non-binding referendum, which said the penalty would be used only for vicious crimes where DNA evidence proved guilt, passed at nearly 56 percent. "It passed in 71 of 72 counties, and in some counties the vote was at 68 percent," said state Sen. Alan Lasee (R), who pushed the bill.

This despite the patchwork nature of capital punishment, the fact that there is really little rhyme nor much reason as to who gets executed, and why. (A man is executed in North Carolina for killing his stepdaughter, but the BTK Killer in Kansas and the Green River Killer in Washington get life in prison.) It is so seldom used (56 times last year) that it has long since stopped being a working part of the criminal justice system. In the past 20 years, prosecutors and supporters have begun saying it is needed because it "brings closure" to victims' families, but they can't possibly mean that, because that would imply that 99 percent of the families of victims never get closure. The system is filled with what Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun once called "arbitrariness, discrimination, caprice and mistake."

January 14, 2007 at 09:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

1 comment:

Crawford's Take said...

I wanted to quickly weigh in on the death penalty referendum in Wisconsin last November.

What Sen. Lasee didn't say in that quote is that the polling on the death penalty in March 2006 was 78% of Wisconsinites' supported the question: Do you support reinstating the death penalty in Wisconsin?

The final question on the ballot presented to the voters was: Do you support reinstatement of the death penalty in Wisconsin for first degree intentional homicides supported by DNA evidence?

This was a much more difficult question and clearly loaded in a way to mislead voters (as stated by Sen. Lasee just prior to the election).

This is what NO Death Penalty WI had to deal with:
Fundraising for the campaign was nearly non-existant (less than $100,000 raised and spent total), local media ignored the referendum almost entirely throughout the campaign, no internal polling on message as an option, less than six months to put together a campaign, 3 staff members, and the fact that Wisconsin has not had the death penalty in 153 years, so NO anti-death penalty education has ever been done in Wisconsin.

Still, with a massive grassroots effort, a radio talk show call in campaign, a concerted effort to obtain earned media, a speakers bureau, and word of mouth. The campaign was able to spread an education campaign based on only 5 (well really 4) anti-dp messages.

Just through the efforts and methods available in the short time allotted, the final vote in Wisconsin was 56/44 in favor of the much more difficult question.

This was a loss granted, but to move the electorate statewide 22 points in 8 months with NO resources is a stunning victory for the campaign. If the campaign had a million to do a tv push to get out the facts, I believe Wisconsinites would have soundly defeated the referendum.

All is not lost in Wisconsin to stop the death penalty. The state legislature switched into Dem hands and our Gov. is soundly against reinstatement. The referendum was advisory only and carries no force of law. Reinstatement will not come in the next 2-4 years, but those of us in Wisconsin vow to remain vigilant!