Death penalty not much of a deterrent - Articles

All Content

Posted by: on Nov 23, 2009

Journal Issue Date: Dec 2009

Journal Name: December 2009 - Vol. 45, No. 12

I was interested in your article in TBJ ("An Odd Combination," September 2009, by Suzanne Craig Robertson). I have tried cases in which the state could have asked for the death penalty.   Fortunately I never had to face it.   Lawyers who have tell me that the stress is far beyond anything they have encountered. A friend [who represented someone in a death penalty case] told me he could not sleep. If I had such a case I always intended to associate someone experienced in such cases. The issues are far beyond the realm of ordinary criminal defense.
Aside from the usual moral arguments it seems to me that death penalty cases are just too expensive. The appeals go on forever and deterence of crime is diminished by lack of speedy justice. Also such scientific advancements as DNA makes proven miscarriages too frequent to be risked. It is hard to reason with many people about the death penalty. They want simple and easy solutions to complex problems.
I have always believed that sureness of punishment deters crime far more than severity of punishment. The death penalty isn''t much of a deterent when only a small percentage of perpetrators are caught.  
I enjoyed your insights.
— Landis Turner, Hohenwald
  Tennessee Bar Association  
president, 1988-1989