Death Penalty Abolitionist Mike Farrell Endorses Torture

graphicfarrellLast night, Tuesday, November 1, 2016, I engaged a death penalty debate on KGO 810 AM radio with famed death penalty abolitionist Mike Farrell. Mr. Farrell is the author of California’s Proposition 62, which would retroactively replace the death penalty with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. It was a heated discussion that took a remarkable turn near the end.
 
I had made the point that the last person executed in California, Clarence Ray Allen, was serving Mr. Farrell’s preferred sentence of life without parole when he organized the revenge killing of three people he felt had betrayed him and landed him in prison. In 2006, Allen was executed for those murders and, as I pointed out, he is no longer a threat to society.
 
Mr. Farrell’s response? “There are degrees of incarceration and if somebody is deemed, or demonstrated, or thought to be a danger to the rest of the people, that person can be put in solitary confinement, that person can be confined in a way that he or she has no human contact. We have the capacity to simply maroon human beings.
 
According to multiple sources, “Solitary confinement is considered to be a form of psychological torture with measurable long-term physiological effects when the period of confinement is longer than a few weeks or is continued indefinitely.”
 
I believe that all death row inmates meet Mr. Farrell’s standard of “somebody (who) is deemed, or demonstrated, or thought to be a danger to the rest of the people.” After all, isn’t that why they are on death row in the first place?
 
Going into the debate I knew that Mr. Farrell would wrap himself in a cloak of moral superiority for working so diligently to save the lives of human beings. However, I never, in my wildest imagination, thought that cloak would slip to such a degree that he would reveal an affinity for torture. I may be an unflinching supporter of the death penalty, and I know that in the eyes of many I am considered unfeeling, without moral compass, or worse. Be that as it may, at least I haven’t revealed myself, as I believe Mr. Farrell has, to be a sadist.
 

The Death Penalty & DNA Exonerations

graphicSince the days of Perry Mason, television has fed the public a constant diet of citizens accused and convicted of capital murders that they did not commit. Currently, the plethora of CSI series would have us believe that forensic evidence miraculously and regularly exonerates innocents as they rot in prison cells.
 

Cameron Todd Willingham

Cameron Todd Willingham

The wrongful accusation, conviction, imprisonment and execution of innocents was a staple of The Good Wife on CBS, which recently featured Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck and the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. The elegance of that particular case is that it is impossible to prove if Willingham truly was innocent as the Good Wife and Scheck claim, or was the remorseless arsonist who was executed in 2003 for torching his three young daughters in 1991. The point is that on these television programs forensics are always definitive, defense lawyers are never wrong, and innocent people are convicted, imprisoned and executed.
 
 
w-colemanOf course, print media is complicit as well. Convicted killer Roger Coleman made the cover of Time Magazine on May 18, 1992 with the caption “This Man Might Be Innocent: This Man Is Due To Die”. Fourteen years after being executed DNA evidence proved that Coleman was guilty of murdering his sister-in-law.
 
The June 12, 2000 cover of Newsweek Magazine featured death row inmate Ricky McGinn. Again, the suggestion was that an innocent man was about to be executed. McGinn stated that DNA testing would prove that he didn’t rape and murder his 12-year-old step-daughter. Under intense media pressure Texas Governor George Bush ordered a 30-day reprieve. When DNA testing proved that McGinn was guilty beyond any doubt he was finally executed.
 
Wouldn’t you be surprised to learn then, that at the end of 2013 there were 2,220,300 prisoners incarcerated under state and federal jurisdiction, yet the total number of DNA exonerations for any kind of felony is less than 350? To date, despite years of parading remorseless killers as innocent victims the abolitionists and other death row apologists cannot definitively demonstrate that an innocent man has been executed.
 
The ultimate irony is that death penalty abolitionists crave the execution of an innocent man so that their indignation can run amok, while those who favor the death penalty pray that an innocent is never executed so that the fragile system of ultimate justice can be preserved.
 

Dirty Rotton Liars and the Death Penalty

graphicThe other day I stepped into the lion’s den to debate the death penalty at UC Berkeley. My opponent was Aundre Herron, an appeals lawyer with Death Penalty Focus. Prior to the debate we had a fruitful discussion about the need for expanded prevention funding for at risk youth. She was a nice lady and I told her that she was making it difficult for me to debate with the passion that I like to bring to the subject. She agreed. We were both wrong.
 
Ms. Herron launched right into the same tired arguments that are being parroted by “abolitionists” who are supporting Proposition 62. If passed it will replace the death penalty with a sentence of “true life”. Abolitionists proudly point to a list of 156-innocent death row inmates have been exonerated since 1973. That is totally misleading! They bemoan the fact that numerous innocent people have been executed, when they haven’t. They say that states that do not have the death penalty have the lowest murder rates. Just don’t tell that to Chicago, Ill, Detroit, MI or Baltimore, MD: three of America’s murder capitals in states that don’t have the death penalty. They say that California has invested $5-billion in the execution of 13-men, which is simplistic and misleading. They do all of this wrapped in a cloak of moral superiority.
 
I was ready. I told the students that if they logged onto the KlaasKids Foundation website they would find 26-empirical studies that clearly demonstrate that when executions in the USA increase, murders decrease, and when executions decrease, murders increase. She countered that each was imperfect, because all of them were biased; therefore there was no evidence of deterrence. However, if lack of perfection is a synonym for flawed, all empirical research will always be flawed, because perfection can never be achieved and bias cannot be erased. One indisputable fact remains: there is a simple but dramatic relationship between the number of executions carried out and a corresponding reduction in the number of murders the following year.
 
There is no evidence that the state of California has ever executed an innocent person. Governor Jerry Brown, who served a term as California Attorney General and is personally opposed to the death penalty, has said: “I think people have gotten exquisite due process in the state of California. It goes on for 20 or 25 years and to think that they’ve missed anything like they have in some other states; I have not seen any evidence of it. None. I know people say, ‘Oh, there have been all these innocent people,’ Well, I have not seen one name on death row that’s been told to me.”
 
Ms. Herron said that California has spent $5-billion to execute 13-death row inmates. This is categorically untrue. You can learn the truth by reading Politifact’s analysis.
 
She said that sloppy police work, aggressive prosecution, and blood thirsty judges were responsible for wrongfully convicting California death row inmates. If she really thinks that vilifying the good guys somehow strengthens her argument, then I believe her confidence is misplaced.
 
Finally, she concluded by saying, “The death penalty is a failed public policy that masquerades as justice and instead commits more violence in response to violence. It is like trying to extinguish fire with more fire. Every time the state kills someone it diminishes us.”
 
That somebody with a minority opinion can be so certain of her moral superiority requires further examination. Abolitionists can look into the eyes of a death row inmate, hear his pitiful story, work tirelessly to set aside the execution and, with that goal accomplished, feel good about themselves for having ‘saved a life.’ After all, isn’t saving a life the moral high ground? However, if the death penalty were found to have a deterrent effect and each convicted criminal spared would cost 8-innocent lives, anyone who had been involved in the process of saving the life of a convicted murderer would therefore have been complicit in the mass murder of innocent victims. The thought of being an unwitting accomplice to mass murder is too horrific for a good person to contemplate, therefore, for the sake of a death penalty opponent’s own psychological well-being, the evidence must be denied.