From the BLOG : Sentencing, Law and Policy :
June 27, 2007
Did anyone at the Senate hearing today discuss the de facto federal capital moratorium?
I am getting really frustrated by the lack of attention being given to the Bush Administration's acceptance of a de facto moratorium on federal executions based on lethal injection litigation. As first discussed here, today there was an a hearing on "Oversight of the Federal Death Penalty" before a Senate Subcommittee, and all the submitted testimony is now linked here. I have searched in vain for any mention of the six federal executions that are being indefinitely stayed, with the Justice Department's apparent approval, because of lethal injection litigation. This NPR report on the Senate hearing does not discuss the issue at all.
I keep harping on this issue because all the deterrence literature supporting the death penalty assert that executions (not merely having the death penalty on the books) is what saves innocent lives. Indeed, the written Senate testimony from William Otis and Dr. David B. Muhlhausen stress recent evidence of capital deterrence to support the federal death penalty. Dr. Muhlhausen's testimony, for example, stressed a study that "found that each execution, on average, results in 18 fewer murders" and that "implementation of state moratoria is associated with the increased incidence of murders."
But, if this capital deterrence evidence is credited by these witnesses and others, the Bush Administration's acceptance of a de facto moratorium on federal executions is essentially responsible for an "increased incidence of murders" and the indefinitely delay of six federal executions may be responsible for 108 more murders! Why aren't death penalty supporters aggrieved by the how this issue is being handled at the federal level?
Of course, I respect efforts by the Justice Department to ensure that the federal lethal injection protocol is sound. But a number of states have carefully reviewed and improved their protocols and gone forward with executions during the unexplained delay in the operation of the federal death penalty. Indeed, as noted here at Crime & Consequences, three different states yesterday carried out lethal injections without any obvious problems.
Can anyone help me understand why this issue has received no attention from anyone but me?
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