Sunday, December 21, 2008

Death Penalty Controversy in Idaho

The Idaho Supreme Court unanimously decided that the victim impact statements admitted by 4th District Judge Thomas Neville during the capital sentencing of Darrell Payne exceeded the scope permitted by existing case law. The result is a new sentencing trial for Payne.


Very few people are happy about this turn of events. The most legitimate complaints were registered by the victim's father. "Why should we have to go through this again and be spun round and round and round?" said Paul Blomberg, the victim's father. "If we are going to have a death penalty and not enforce it, then the state of Idaho needs to step up and change the law.""It's hard to explain to people. Samantha needs ... we need closure. The sentence needs to be confirmed one way or the other," Blomberg said. "We believe the death penalty is just. We think it is appropriate (for Payne). But if the state of Idaho is going to have a death penalty and never enforce it ... why have one in the first place? Victims have no idea what they are in for."

This case is not an anomaly. A significant proportion of death sentences and/or convictions are reversed on appeal. As a result of the lengthy appeal process and the concomitant failure to deliver as promised, more victims' families are making statements similar to Mr. Blomberg's - many families and friends believe in the death penalty, but want to "get off of the roller coaster" ride of emotions.

So not only is the death penalty more expensive than a life sentence, it promises to drag on for decades. The time on death row has doubled over the last decade. In California it takes over 17 years between an condemned person's conviction and execution.

Getting a death sentence is 2-5 times more expensive than a life sentence. Factor in the number of reversals, and you have a public policy that fails like no other. Inmates, their families, and the victims' families all pay an additional price.

Now is the time to eliminate this failed policy. Idaho has had one execution and one exoneration since 1976. Lacey Sivak has been awaiting execution since 1981. Mr Blomberg's simple question sums up the situation - why have it?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dr. Blankenship, I like your blog. I also agree vigorously that the death penalty should be abolished. But regarding the argument that the death penalty is more costly to the state than life in prison, how do you respond to those pro-death-penalty advocates that suggest the solution to the cost issue is to remove many of the appeals? Many, especially in Idaho, have a "just shoot 'em" mentality. Would you please blog a good rebuttal to this argument? It sure would come in handy.