We Need to Stop Executing Peoplel

Last night, the state of Georgia executed a man who was very likely innocent. Like PZ, I don’t care whether he was guilty or innocent. I care that my country is one of the few countries in the world that executes people.

From Wikipedia

I used to be a strong death penalty supporter. Some crimes, I thought, could only be adequately punished by death. I didn’t ever believe it acted as a general deterrent, but as former FBI agent John Douglas said in Mindhunter, it surely acts as a specific deterrent: that particular person will never commit a crime again. When you’re talking about serial killers, that seems like an admirable thing.

But we kill too many innocent people. We come close to killing far more, before luck and persistence and the existence of DNA evidence, uncovered by tireless investigators, come to the rescue. Those are the lucky ones. Those are the ones who aren’t denied the chance to prove their innocence. How many other people have gone to their deaths because no DNA evidence existed, or if it did was never found, or if found, never allowed to be presented? We don’t know. And it’s unbearable that we don’t know.

So what about those cases in which evidence of guilt is undeniable? Where we definitely have the right person, and the crimes they committed are horrific?

I still don’t support the death penalty. Not even for them. Oh, I may want them to die, and die horribly; that visceral emotional reaction, that righteous outrage, is certainly there. But a civilized society should restrain itself. All we gain is another dead person, another traumatized family, proof that we aren’t able to rise above bronze age ideas of justice. We engage in violence to punish violence, and make our civilization just that much more violent.

Life in prison, no parole, is enough to keep society safe.

We spend an insane amount of money on killing people. That money would be far better spent on improving the conditions that lead people to violence in the first place. A society that takes care of its vulnerable members has less to fear from them, and so much to gain.

Troy Davis should be the last person to be put to death in this country. We’re the last country in North America to execute people. It’s time we joined Canada and Mexico in recognizing what justice truly is.

Ed Brayton Praises Police: Dana Hunter Taken to Hospital with Heart Failure

If you’re a regular reader of Dispatches from the Culture Wars, you know that Ed Brayton gleefully exposes every bit of police corruption that comes his way.  He’s merciless.  And so, this post rather took me by surprise.

It starts out normally enough:

Dozens of convictions for drunk driving are suspect now that a routine audit of a crime lab in Colorado Springs showed that the results of those tests were typically overstated by the lab’s testing.

And so I read on for the smackdown.  Instead, I got this:

The good news is that the local police and prosecutors seem to be taking this seriously and looking to do the right thing:

“We’re not going to be relying upon any questionable blood alcohol content results,” he said. “The District Attorney’s office and the Colorado Springs Police realize how serious it is and we’re acting accordingly.”

“We don’t want to treat anybody as guilty if they’re not,” he added…

And then he gives them kudos.  Kudos!

I don’t know if my world will ever be the same again.

Oh, and Colorado Springs?  Kudos to ye for caring more about truth than convictions.

Excellent Idea

Looks like the AMA’s got its head on pretty straight (h/t):

The American Medical Assn. on Tuesday urged the federal government to reconsider its classification of marijuana as a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use, a significant shift that puts the prestigious group behind calls for more research.

The nation’s largest physicians organization, with about 250,000 member doctors, the AMA has maintained since 1997 that marijuana should remain a Schedule I controlled substance, the most restrictive category, which also includes heroin and LSD.

In changing its policy, the group said its goal was to clear the way to conduct clinical research, develop cannabis-based medicines and devise alternative ways to deliver the drug.

Good on them. Marijuana deserves to be a Schedule I controlled substance just about as much as I deserve to win a Strongman competition (those in doubt, see photo in sidebar).  And for those, like me, who utterly cannot stand the smell, an alternate method of delivery would be a supremely awesome idea in case we should ever need to ingest it medically.

Let’s hope the Powers that Be know a good idea when the AMA slaps them with it.

Driving While ESL

I don’t even know what to say:

Of course, the local cops are calling it a “rookie mistake”:

A Dallas rookie police officer erred when he cited a woman earlier this month for being a non-English speaking driver, police said.

Officer Gary Bromley issued a citation Oct. 2 to 48-year-old Ernestina Mondragon after stopping her for making an illegal U-turn in the 500 block of Easton Road, near East Northwest Highway, according to a copy of the citation.

“That’s a charge that does not exist here in the city of Dallas,” said department spokesman Sgt. Warren Mitchell. “Although we believe it was a sincere mistake … there’s no excuse for it.”

And there was no excuse the other 39 times over the last 3 years, either.

I love cops.  I truly do.  The vast majority of them work hard, and they’re good men and women who follow the law.  But it’s time for Dallas to get rid of their bad apples, starting with the ones at the top of the basket.

Rick Perry Sez The Death Penalty Works Great, Thankyousoverymuch

Has no one told this man how to determine when it’s a good time to put the fucking shovel down?

A little thing like being shown to have probably executed an innocent man isn’t going to get in the way of continuing to put people to death, if Texas governor Rick Perry has anything to do with it.
Said Perry yesterday:

Our process works, and I don’t see anything out there that would merit calling for a moratorium on the Texas death penalty. It’s fair and appropriate, and we will continue with it.

Oh, he put the shovel down, all right.  He needed his hands free so he could light the dynamite.

This Is How Unhinged The Right’s Getting

The Secret Service is so snowed under with threats (and not just against Obama, mind you) that they’re considering giving up some of their other raisons d’être:

The threats against President Obama and other U.S. leaders are putting a strain on the Secret Service that’s overwhelming the agency.

The unprecedented number of death threats against President Obama, a rise in racist hate groups, and a new wave of antigovernment fervor threaten to overwhelm the US Secret Service, according to government officials and reports, raising new questions about the 144-year-old agency’s overall mission.

The Secret Service is tracking a far broader range of possible threats to the nation’s leaders, the officials said, even as it also investigates financial crimes such as counterfeiting as part of its original mandate.

The new demands are leading some officials, both inside and outside the agency, to raise the possibility of the service curtailing or dropping its role in fighting financial crime to focus more on protecting leaders and their families from assassination attempts and thwarting terrorist plots aimed at high-profile events.

Even as the size of the Secret Service’s staff and budget grow, the agency is struggling to keep up with demands on its time. On the one hand, the Secret Service is still in the business of investigating financial crimes, searching for missing and exploited children, and possibly even expanding its role in probing mortgage fraud. On the other, domestic threats against U.S. leaders, most notably the president, have escalated considerably.

Threatening language has also found its way into talk radio broadcasts and social networking websites, raising fears that individuals not normally considered threats to the president could be incited to violence.

Gee.  Whodathunk that Beck, Limbaugh, Coulter et al could’ve created such a perfect storm of stupidity, paranoia and fear that your common idiot might take up a gun and start shooting any and every evil librul they can lay lead on, eh

It’s pretty fucking sad we as a country have come to this.  It really is.

Just When You Thought Perry Couldn’t Get More Despicable

He goes and calls a very-likely-innocent dead man a monster:

Texas governor Rick Perry has defended his handling of a death penalty case that may have led to the execution of an innocent man — and launched an extraordinary attack on the dead man himself.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Perry yesterday called Cameron Todd Wilingham a “monster,” a “bad man,” and “a guy who murdered his three children, who tried to beat his wife into an abortion so that she wouldn’t have those kids.”

Hey, Rick?  If he was bad as all that, if the evidence was airtight and he really did this and deserved to die, why are you so fucking intent on making sure there’s no investigation?

Something tells me it’s not the dead man who’s the monster.

Perry’s Situation Deteriorates

Rick, Rick, Rick.  Who’ve thought it could get any worse?

Things are looking worse and worse for Texas governor Rick Perry, accused of stifling a state panel’s probe into that flawed arson investigation that may have led to the execution of an innocent man.
Sam Bassett, the former chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, has now told the Houston Chronicle that lawyers for Perry told him the case was inappropriate, and that the hiring of a nationally known fire expert was a “waste of state money.”

Because the state sure as shit doesn’t want to waste money ensuring it doesn’t execute innocent people.

Gov. Perry Takes It Further

Criminally oblivious piece of shit, innit he?

But Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who was governor when the state killed Willingham, was apparently afraid of what the truth might show. In the 11th hour, Perry fired some of the Forensic Science Commission’s members, ensuring that the panel couldn’t hold a meeting to discuss the case.
Publius explained this morning that Perry is still at it.

He’s now removed a fourth member of the Texas commission responsible for investigating whether Texas (and Perry) executed an innocent man. It’s whitewashing at its worst. […]

What’s amazing is not so much that Perry replaced the panel members, but that he felt secure enough to be so brazenly corrupt about it…. [H]is motive is fairly clear. Perry contributed to the execution of an innocent person. And the formal recognition that Texas executed an innocent man would trigger a massive political earthquake — one that would clarify to an inattentive public the utter barbarity and immorality of Texas’s criminal justice system.

So yes, I can understand Perry’s motives. But it doesn’t change the fact that he is acting in a profoundly immoral way. The whole thing reminds me of a banana republic dictator clumsily covering up his crimes.

[snip]
It’s a genuine disgrace and an embarrassment to the country.

I hope Perry ends up in a Texas prison together with all those men he’s condemned.  I truly do.

Perry Petrified of the Truth

That’s the only conclusion you can come to when you look at the evidence.

If you read Pharyngula, you already know that Texas very likely executed an innocent man.  And instead of trying to find out the truth in order to prevent future travesties, Gov. Perry’s been doing everything he can to ensure the truth never comes out.

And I do mean everything:

It’s starting to look more and more like Texas governor Rick Perry orchestrated an effort to thwart a state probe into an arson investigation that may have led to the execution of an innocent man.
Sam Bassett — the former chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission, who Perry declined to reappoint last month — is now saying that Perry’s aides tried to pressure him over the direction of the inquiry his panel was conducting into the steps that led to the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham for arson. Perry, as governor, signed off on the execution, despite clear evidence that the investigation was flawed.
Bassett told the Chicago Tribune over the weekend that he twice was summoned to meetings with Perry’s top attorneys, who said explicitly that they were unhappy with the how the panel’s probe was being conducted. At one meeting, Perry’s lawyers questioned how much it was costing, and asked why the panel had hired a nationally known arson expert — rather than a Texas fire scientist — to look into the case. Bassett added that after that meeting, a staffer from the Texas general counsel’s office started attending commission meetings.
Said Bassett to the Tribune:

I was surprised that they were involving themselves in the commission’s decision-making. I did feel some pressure from them, yes. There’s no question about that.

I used to be a death penalty advocate.  But it’s cases like this, together with other grievous miscarriages of justice and the general horrific unfairness in its application, that turned me against it.  Too many innocent people, too many mentally ill or incompetent people, get annihilated by the state’s zeal to kill in the name of justice.

Some people aren’t fit to live in civilized society, true.  Just look at Gov. Perry and you see the truth of that.

I hope this brings him down.