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Posts Tagged ‘death penalty’

Over at Sentencing Law and Policy, Doug Berman has an interesting analysis of the effects of aggressively deploying the federal death penalty in Buffalo, New York. Berman’s analysis discusses a news story that begins in the following way:

It’s hard to find a federal prosecutor anywhere in the nation who has filed as many potential death penalty cases as William J. Hochul Jr., the U.S. attorney for Western New York.

So far, none of those cases has led to an execution.

But they have cost taxpayers a bundle of money — more than $661,000 in the past year.

Berman argues, contrary to some of those quoted in the article, that these prosecutions are a sound use of taxpayer money. Here’s a taste, but as they say, read the whole thing:

If and whenever a capital prosecution prompts a murderer to plead guilty, the cost savings from avoiding a full-blown federal trial and appeals are significant and save many times more than gets spent at the outset of a federal capital prosecution.  (Though federal capital trials surely cost millions more than non-capital trials, a full-blown non-capital trial in just one big federal criminal case is likely to cost much more than the $661,000 figure being stressed here.)

In addition, it is important to keep in mind that USA William Hochul’s decision to seek a federal capital prosecution in these 24 cases results in the defendants receiving a “Cadillac” defense which should help ensure (1) there is no wrongful prosecution/conviction of an innocent defendant, (2) that prosecutors do not engage in any misconduct, and (3) that all relevant mitigating evidence is discovered as early as possible.  In other words, the extra money being spent on defense costs because of USA Hochul’s capital charging decisions likely benefit not only defendants, but also the entire federal criminal justice system, in lots of ways.  Defendants receiving a great defense from the very outset of their prosecution are far less likely to be wrongfully convicted or over-punished, which can and should save significant federal resources in the long-run.

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Frank Green of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports on Virginia’s execution Thursday night of Terry Jerrell Jackson, 30, for the 2001 rape and murder of an elderly woman. The story focuses on the execution as witnessed by a French reporter, and it excerpts the story written by that reporter:

Jackson lies on a raised gurney fitted with leather straps. Six prison staffers methodically strap him down.

The curtain closes abruptly, and the employees, unseen, insert catheters into each of Jackson’s arms.

Five minutes pass, and the audience is silent. A cough escapes from behind the curtain.

After 10 minutes, the fabric is drawn open, and Jackson is still conscious, his arms crossed over his chest.

The catheters, barely visible, will carry the lethal cocktail of three drugs — an anesthetic, then a muscle paralyzer, and finally potassium chloride to stop respiration — to Jackson’s body.

Jackson’s execution is the first in Virginia this year, and the first in the state to use the anesthetic pentobarbital, which is normally used to euthanize animals.

Several states switched to the drug this year instead of sodium thiopental for their lethal injections after the sole US supplier ceased production.

Jackson’s face is largely hidden by the bulk of his body, but his chest can be seen rising and falling. His toes twitch.

Prison warden George Hinkle looks at Jackson. “Do you have any last words?”

Jackson appears to say “no,” but no one is really sure.

Hinkle steps away, and the injections begin. A clock above the door marks the time: 9:08 pm.

A minute passes, and Jackson’s toes stop twitching. To the witnesses, Jackson looks completely inert.

At 9:14, an official declares, to no one in particular, “the order of the court was carried out.”

Jerry Jackson is dead. The curtain is drawn once again, and the witnesses — some of them shaken — stand up. No relatives of the murder victim are in attendance.

Outside the chamber, in a dark parking lot of the prison, a dark Chevrolet van waits to take delivery of Jackson’s body.

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