Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Good Riddance to Clarence Ray Allen

Google Search: Clarence Ray Allen
Oldest Death Row Inmate Executed

The worst thing wrong with this case is that it took 23 years to execute the monster. Administration of capital cases needs to be reformed.

Once a special board (not an individual prosecutor subject to re-election pressures) has decided a case is capital, the case should be expedited. There should be special courts to handle capital cases. A major purpose behind these courts should be prompt treatment of the case. Endless delays and appeals need to end. If a lawyer can't fit a case into his busy schedule in order to handle it expeditiously, re-arrange that lawyer's schedule or get another lawyer.

Part of this reform involves reducing the likelihood of improper execution. As in war, though, absolute avoidance of "collateral damage" has to be recognized as impossible. You try like hell to avoid it, but you don't stop what you are doing in order to avoid the unavoidable.

There is no reason why, in the "war" on crime, prisoners should be absolutely exempted from the risk of becoming victims (whether of murder or mistaken execution). Police, judges, lawyers and the general citizenry face this risk. Nobody should become exempt from this risk simply by virtue of being arrested.

One of the improvements that should be made in the administration of capital cases is to make abuse of the capital justice system a capital offense in itself. Framing someone into execution should be a capital offense.

Of course, no reform along these lines is likely to happen any time soon. Instead, we'll continue to have quarter-century stays on death row by ever increasing numbers of the condemned, along with the resulting compromise of the death penalty's deterrent function. This will continue until population density and other pressures deliver us to the state presently seen in some other societies, where we see incredible levels of criminality, extrajudicial execution, private death squads and so on.

The death penalty clearly has a deterrent effect, contrary to what death penalty opponents claim. This deterrent effect, though, deteriorates as a function of the time it takes to execute the condemned.

We should not do away with the death penalty; rather, we should maximize its deterrent effect by optimizing its administration.

Oh, well...

2 comments:

JustaBrit said...

I agree totally. The recent murder in Thailand of british tourist, Katherine Horton, was a prime example of how the justice system should operate. Within 18 days of the murder 3 men were arrested, tried and sentenced to death. 4 lives lost but how many saved? Murderers need to be treated as such, and not as "victims" of the law.

Steve said...

Thanks for your comment.

> 4 lives lost but how many saved?

Depending on who you consider credible, in the United States the deterrent effect of capital punishment results in many lives saved.

Unfortunately, we're locked into the myth of "inherent human dignity" promulgated by people of certain faiths (not that people don't make secular cases against the death penalty, too).