Death Penalty - A matter of life, death and social standing
September 26, 2005
Michael Lenza sounds like a reluctant opponent of the death penalty.
"I wish I could say the death penalty is fair, the worst people get it; if its a crime of passion, we're not executing them; we're not executing children; were not executing somebody that's mentally retarded or has severe mental disabilities," he said. "But we can't say that. We just can't."
Lenza has the facts and figures to back up what he says. The Bluffton University sociologist spent 6 years analyzing 19 years of capital murder cases in Missouri.
He concluded that when it comes to sentencing in death penalty cases, "almost everything matters except the crime." What matters most, his findings suggest, is the relative value society places on the defendant and on the victim.
Lenzas presentation Friday was based his doctoral dissertation, a study of the death penalty in Missouri from 1978 to 1996.
He examined 9,857 homicides which resulted in 152 death sentences. He found that defendants were more likely to be sentenced to death if they were young, poor, black or had a previous criminal record.
He found a black defendant who killed a white victim was 3 times as likely to receive the death penalty as a white defendant with a black victim.
Lenza's findings track with numerous other studies. A California study published last week suggested the race of the victim could be the most telling factor: A death sentence was most likely when the victim was white, far less so when the victim was black or Hispanic.
"When the jurors decide guilt or innocence, they're looking at the case. Then the trial stops. Then they have a new (sentencing) trial, and it's about the social relationships and the social standing of the defendant," Lenza said.
Loose CanonsRole Reversal
The anti-war, anti-Bush MSM both here and abroad have reached a state of near-rapture. The president's problems, Tom DeLay's indictment, the diminishing support for the war and the growing (and healthy) fight between fiscal conservatives and big government Republicans has enthused them like nothing since the last helo lifted off from the American embassy in Saigon. They're ready to declare conservatism over. But, like the Washington Post's reports that Rep. Mike Pence's "operation offset" was dead, they will be proven wrong if actions take the place of speeches.
A little-noticed role reversal has occurred in American politics. The MSM are performing the service that Heritage, AEI, Cato, and the Hoover Institution provide for conservatives. The media have filled the political and intellectual vacuum that left the Dems entirely bereft of ideas, able to say nothing other than "no." Today the opposition party to the Republicans is not the Dems but the mainstream media itself. They write, they speak, and the Dems follow.
"We could be driving powerful, stylish vehicles that get 35-45 mpg -- if we lived in Europe."
So don't buy a hybrid car anytime soon.