Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Wisconsin Should Adopt the Death Penalty

Our article in The Wisconsin Interest is out, and available on the web.

The key points we make:

  • Opponents of the death penalty claim that there is a very high rate of error, with over 120 innocent people having been put on death row during the past 30 years. In reality, their numbers are radically inflated, and the number of innocent people who have been put on death row is perhaps a third of that.
  • There is no compelling evidence that any innocent person has been executed in the last 40 years. Claims to the contrary are based on tendentious treatment of the evidence. In the only case where these claims were actually put to the test with the use of new technology on old DNA evidence, the executed man was shown to be guilty.
  • The rate of error is doubtless much higher in cases where the death penalty is not at issue, as the work of the Innocence Project shows.
  • Claims that life in prison is a viable alternative to execution offer a false promise. There is in fact no guarantee that the killer will actually serve a life sentence. Activist judges and executives with the power of clemency may, for reasons of ideology or political expediency decide to let murderers out of prison, as Bill Clinton did with Puerto Rican terrorists in 1999.
  • An increasing number of good studies have found a deterrent effect of executions. Although there are studies on the other side of the issue, the mere possibility of a deterrent effect means that failing to execute murderers needlessly endangers innocent people who might become victims.
As Wisconsin faces a referendum on the issue this fall, the intellectual case for the death penalty becomes stronger and stronger.


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