There is a huge effort worldwide to end the death penalty. The recent case of Troy Davis, an African-American, received enormous media attention. Davis had been convicted in 1989 of killing an off-duty police officer in Savannah, Ga., after the officer, who was working as a security guard, intervened to defend a man being assaulted.
Petitions to exonerate or commute the sentence of Troy Davis were rejected by state courts and the Supreme Court of the U.S. Tens of thousands of supporters worldwide demonstrated in support of Davis. He was executed on September 21.
Interestingly, at about the same time, Lawrence Russell Brewer, a white supremacist gang member, so described by The New York Times, was executed in Texas. There were no crowds protesting his execution, nor should there have been.
The Times described his crime as “the dragging death of James Byrd, Jr., a black man from East Texas. Mr. Byrd, 49, was chained to the back of a pickup truck in 1998 and pulled to his death along a bumpy asphalt road in one of the most grisly hate crime murders in recent Texas history. Appeals to the courts for Mr. Brewer had been exhausted.”
I was very pleased Brewer was executed. I will be equally pleased to see Steven Hayes, who was convicted of the murders of a mother and her two daughters, one only 11 years old, in the Cheshire, Conn., home invasion case, executed.
Death penalty opponents state it is inherently unfair and racially biased. The facts, I believe, are otherwise. The Death Penalty Information Center has provided the following statistics.
The racial breakdown for those sentenced to death since 1977 is as follows: 48.6 percent white; 40.9 percent black; 8.9 percent Hispanic; and 1.6 percent other. The race of defendants executed in the U.S. since 1976 is 56 percent white; 35 percent black; 7 percent Hispanic; 2 percent other.
The reason for the discrepancy in the execution rate between blacks and whites is that juries deciding whether to impose the death penalty have concluded in more cases involving black defendants that there were extenuating circumstances militating in favor of a lesser penalty.
Hearings on the penalty to be imposed are now required, as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision to make certain that each defendant in a capital case has an opportunity to present extenuating circumstances without limitation, and not automatically face the death penalty after the jury determined guilt.
The American public still supports the death penalty, notwithstanding the hammering capital punishment receives each year. According to a Gallup Poll of Oct. 7, 2010, 64 percent are in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder. I’m glad the American public does.
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