The recent spike in murders in Boston have more than one candidate for public office, and more than one conservative talk show host, waxing on and on about how Massachusetts and other states should adopt the death penalty. Oh God, I think, not another round of this mindless debate. “Now!” the conservatives and law-and-order types cry; “Now is the time!” Like a broken record, death penalty advocates repeat that it will 1) Deter crime and 2) That even if it doesn’t deter crime, that as “the ultimate punishment, the punishment should fit the crime.”
For the one millionth time, let’s make something clear: Credible study after study, and empirical, real-world experience after real-world experience has shown: The death penalty does NOT deter violent crime. That is inarguable, and has been well settled among reasoned minds for many years. As a Boston Massachusetts murder defense attorney, I have sat and spoken with a number of murderers and violent criminals, and I can assure you: Not one of them ever stopped and thought to himself, “Wait a minute, isn’t there a death penalty in this state? On second thought, I won’t commit this crime.” Murderers kill because they have depraved hearts and minds, and no morality or human decency. Death penalty statutes have never deterred violent crimes such as murder, rape and felony-murder. It just doesn’t work that way.
Another major reason why the death penalty is inadvisable, owes to the significant possibility that it may be applied incorrectly – i.e., that an innocent person could be executed. In the event that doesn’t convince those who still doubt this reality, visit The Innocence Project, where DNA evidence has exonerated many wrongfully-convicted inmates sitting on death row. Another major, and much more practical, argument against capital punishment is the financial cost – to you and me, the taxpayers. What cost am I talking about? Most people have either not considered, will not consider, or do not believe, just how much money it costs in mandatory appeals following a death penalty sentence. Nor, very importantly, do most people understand how much time these appeals take, and where they have to wind their way through in the court system. They can cost millions of dollars in legal and administrative fees – and who pays for this? You and I do – the state and federal taxpayers. Death row inmates do not have money to pay for private lawyers to handle their appeals through the state courts, the United States (federal) District Courts, the United States Courts of Appeals, and if necessary all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.