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September 16th, 2009 By | News | Posted In: Death Penalty, Public Policy, Social Justice

U.S. Crime: Mr. Deters, Please Take Note

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Released Monday, the FBI’s annual crime report for last year further underscores the fact that imposing capital punishment on criminals doesn’t act as a deterrent to homicides.

The report, Crime in the United States 2008, reveals that in 13 of the 14 states that didn’t have the death penalty last year, the murder rate was below the national rate of 5.4 homicides per 100,000 people.

In the state that was the sole exception to the trend, Michigan, the homicide rate was equal to the national rate.

The states with the highest murder rates in 2008 were in the Deep South.

Ohio’s rate also was below the national average, with 4.7 murders per 100,000. Kentucky had 4.6 per 100,000; Indiana had 5.1 per 100,000. Nationally, the homicide rate and the number of executions and death sentences imposed dropped slightly last year. Overall, about 1 in every 20,000 Americans was murdered last year.

A full list of state-by-state rankings is available online.

This trend also has been noted in numerous previous reports issued by the bureau.

For example, Crime in the United States 2005 showed homicide rates in states that did not have the death penalty averaged 4.03 homicides per 100,000 people, while states still using the death penalty averaged 5.87 homicides.

For years, most criminologists have said capital punishment doesn’t provide deterrence for homicides, as its supporters suggest. Still, many politicians stump for the death penalty as an easy method for appearing “tough on crime.”

The trend shouldn’t be surprising: Violence begets violence, culturally and individually.

What is shocking are FBI statistics that reveal states with the highest capital punishment rates are also the highest in the number of law enforcement personnel who are murdered.

In a report using statistics from 1989-99, the FBI showed that California had the highest number of people sentenced to death, and the highest number of officers killed. Texas had the second-highest death penalty rate and the second-highest number of personnel killed; Florida ranked third for both indicators.

A reasonable person could easily surmise that one possible reason is when violent offenders face off with police, the offenders believe they have little to lose by killing officers because they might be executed if captured.

No matter: Hamilton County — and in particular its prosecutor, Joe Deters — are notorious for their willingness to put criminals to death.

As of 2007, Cuyahoga Country, the state's most populous and home to Cleveland, accounted for 16 percent of Death Row inmates; Franklin County, home to Columbus, accounted for 7 percent; Hamilton County, smaller than either and home to just 7 percent of the state's population, accounted for 21 percent of the Death Row inmates.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is renewing its call for a moratorium on carrying out death sentences in Ohio after another botched execution attempt this week. The failed attempt involving Cleveland area inmate Romell Broom was the third botched execution in the last few years.

Broom’s execution was called off Tuesday after prison officials failed to locate a viable vein after several hours of searching. Gov. Ted Strickland delayed another attempt on Broom for at least one week due to the problems.

Broom was convicted for raping and fatally stabbing a 14-year-old girl in 1984.

Other botched executions in Ohio include Joseph L. Clark in May 2006 and Christopher Newton in May 2007. Both of the executions eventually were completed despite officials struggling to find viable veins on the men.

The ACLU wants Strickland to issue a moratorium pending a review of Ohio’s execution procedures.

“If the state is going to take a person’s life, they must ensure that it is done as humanely as possible,” said Carrie Davis, an Ohio ACLU attorney. “With three botched executions in as many years, it’s clear that the state must stop and review the system entirely before another person is put to death.”
 
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