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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Plug In the Electric Chair?

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- So here's a question: Does the death penalty help deter crime? There have been plenty of executions across the land, yet the murder rate seems to be steadily rising. Sadly, in big Midwestern cities like Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati the bodies have been piling up at a near-record pace.

This week, the toll hit 77 in Cincinnati, which tied the number of murders for all of 2005. And there are probably going to be a few more lives taken by year's end. From here, it doesn't look like many killers are very concerned about receiving a death sentence if they are caught.

Yesterday, the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati blocked today's scheduled lethal-injection execution of Jerome Henderson, 47, at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facilty in Lucasville. Henderson was slated to become the 25th convicted killer to die during Gov. Bob Taft's years in office, when Ohio resumed capital punishment. On Thursday, the appeals court plans to hear arguments in a case brought by Death Row inmates who claim that lethal-injection is cruel and unusual punishment. That's quite a contention, because lethal injections replaced the electric chair at Lucasville, and falling asleep permanently under a drug-induced haze has to be far less cruel than being fried by a high-voltage jolt in the chair. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I have witnessed executions during my years as a newspaper reporter.)

Meanwhile, the Associated Press has published the correction below. It now says it goofed and there won't be a push to expand capital punishment to cover foster parents who slay children in their care.

Again, does the death penalty deter crime, does it save any lives, does it work that way at all? Or is it Old Testament punishment -- an eye for an eye . . .

Correction: Foster Care-Reform story
12/5/2006, 8:50 a.m. ET
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — In stories Dec. 2 and Dec. 4 about proposed changes in the foster care system, The Associated Press reported erroneously that the Public Children Services Association of Ohio would recommend to lawmakers that the death penalty automatically be possible for foster parents who kill children in their care. The group supports increasing the penalties for parents who intentionally harm or kill their foster children but not the death penalty, said Crystal Ward Allen, executive director.


  1. Is the death penalty supposed to deter murders or is it retribution for an unthinkable crime?

  2. Bill - just commenting on the blog - good luck and welcome.

  3. I sure wish I knew the answer to that. When the capital punishment law was adopted back in the early 1980s, I remember a lot of discussion among lawmakers in Columbus about its supposed deterrent effects. Now we don't hear much anymore like that.

  4. I'm not a huge proponent of the death penalty, but it is silly to even ask whether it is a deterrent or not. It has no possibility to affect behavior of criminals because our judicial system is so screwy that murderers sit on death row for 15 years before the sentence is carried out. The ridiculous appeals and delays eliminate any chance of a crook hesitating to commit a crime out of fear of the death penalty. As it stands now the death penalty just serves to waste government money on lawyers. Carry out the sentence immediately and then see if there is a deterrent effect. The victims didn't get a chance to say goodbye to their loved ones why does the murderer get 10 years to say goodbye and write books, etc?

  5. Because of the long appeals process and general ignorance of those whom are commiting the crimes, as well as the fact most of the murder victims very well could end up being the murderer as well because of their acceptance that their business carries the possibility of death, clearly the death penalty is not a deterent.