The Death Penalty Is Dying…….Oh…….Wait………………
For years, we’ve been told that “the death penalty is dying.” And it’s true that, as the murder rate fell by more than 50% over a generation (1990-2014), support for death sentences likewise fell substantially (although not as much, from 80% in the mid-Nineties to 55% today (still a bigger share of popular support than Joe Biden got)). The number of executions also substantially fell, but is hardly disappearing, since over the last five years, we’ve averaged one execution every 17 days (see this bar graph).
So it’s just not true that the death penalty is dying. It became less frequent as the need for it became less frequent, sure. This is news? But the reason for its persistence is no big mystery. It’s not that America is a primitive, vindictive country. It’s not that we are callous or sadistic. It’s that there continue to be gruesome, atrocious murders for which a jail sentence, no matter what its length, would not strike a normal person as fitting the crime. The most recent example comes from a county and state that were crucial in President Trump’s defeat.
This is the story from the Wall Street Journal:
A Georgia grand jury indicted Robert Aaron Long on multiple murder counts and other charges for the March 16 spa shootings here, and a prosecutor signaled she would seek the death penalty, according to documents filed Tuesday.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis also filed papers with the court that state she planned to prosecute the shootings as hate crimes.
Eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were killed in the attacks at three spas—two in Atlanta and one in suburban Cherokee County. Mr. Long, now 22 years old, was captured by police as he was fleeing the state toward Florida. Police said he told them he frequented the spas for sex and committed the violence to lash out against what he considered temptation.
The 19 indictments filed in Fulton County Tuesday are for the shootings at the two Atlanta spas. They include four counts of murder, four counts of felony murder, five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, five counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and one domestic terrorism charge.
I might add, although it ought to be irrelevant, that District Attorney Willis is a black female Democrat. More to the point, she recognized, as Eric Holder recognized in the Boston Marathon murders, that there are some crimes so grotesque that the jury should at least have the option of choosing the ultimate punishment.