That's the title of the editorial in today's New York Times. Here's the beginning of this concise summary of the state of capital punishment in America:
When the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, it said there were two social purposes for imposing capital punishment for the most egregious crimes: deterrence and retribution. In recent months, these justifications for a cruel and uncivilized punishment have been seriously undermined by a growing group of judges, prosecutors, scholars and others involved in criminal justice, conservatives and liberals alike.
A distinguished committee of scholars convened by the National Research Council found that there is no useful evidence to determine if the death penalty deters serious crimes. Many first-rate scholars have tried to prove the theory of deterrence, but that research “is not informative about whether capital punishment increases, decreases, or has no effect on homicide rates,” the committee said.
A host of other respected experts have also concluded that life imprisonment is a far more practical form of retribution, because the death penalty process is too expensive, too time-consuming and unfairly applied.
The punishment is supposed to be reserved for the very worst criminals, but dozens of studies in state after state have shown that the process for deciding who should be sent to death row is arbitrary and discriminatory.
Thanks to the Innocence Project and the overturning of 18 wrongful convictions of death-row inmates with DNA evidence and the exonerations of 16 others charged with capital crimes, the American public is increasingly aware that the system makes terrible mistakes. Since 1973, a total of 142 people have been freed from death row after being exonerated with DNA or other kinds of evidence.
All of these factors have led the states to retreat from the death penalty in recent years — in both law and in practice. In 2012, Connecticut became the fifth state in five years to abolish the penalty. Nine states executed inmates, the fewest in two decades. Three-fourths of the 43 executions in 2012 were carried out in only four states. The number of new death sentences remained low at 77 — about one-third the number in 2000 — with just four states accounting for almost two-thirds of those sentences. While 33 states retain the death penalty on their books, 13 of them have not executed anyone for at least five years.
"Cost of justice is a factor in the death penalty," is the Amarillo Globe-News editorial from the January 1 edtition.
According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the first scheduled execution of 2013 in the state of Texas will occur Jan. 29, when Kimberly McCarthy will receive the ultimate form of punishment for robbing and stabbing to death a 70-year-old woman in Dallas County. Following the murder, McCarthy also used the deceased victim’s credit cards and vehicle.
The Death Penalty Information Center released a report Dec. 18, indicating that capital punishment in 2012 — as far as new death sentences — was down to its second-lowest total since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.
In 2012, there were 43 executions nationwide — 15 in Texas.
Justice should not come down to cost, but there can be no denying that counties have no other choice but to make the price of justice a major consideration when it comes to the death penalty.