Why the Death Penalty is Wrong for Wisconsin

1) The system makes mistakes:

• Wisconsin exonerations
• Cases of possible execution of innocents

Reasonable Doubts: Is the U.S. Executing Innocent People?
Released from Death Row, Probable or Possible Innocence

• Cases of possible innocents in prison

2) The system is not fair:

• Poor people often get inadequate legal representation. Legislature says that if people "are living on as little as $248 a month, they can afford to hire their own lawyers" - from the same Legislature that just spent close to $1 million in taxpayer funds to defend some of its own members. More in...

• Police and prosecutor misconduct is a major cause of wrongful convictions.
• Race, including race of the victim, often determines who gets death sentences.

3) The system is cruel:

• Juvenile offenders and persons with mental retardation and mental illness continue to be executed.

4) The system does not work. Four new studies on deterrence throw further doubt that there is any deterrent effect from sentencing people to death or executing people for homicide:

• The death penalty does not deter violent crime. According to a New York Times study, during the last 20 years the homicide rate in states with the death penalty has been 48% - 101% higher than in states without the death penalty.
• A 1995 Hart Research poll of US police chiefs found that 67% do not believe the death penalty reduces the homicide rate. They ranked the death penalty last among effective ways of reducing violent crime.
• According to statistics from the latest FBI Uniform Crime Report, regions of the country that use the death penalty are the least safest for police officers. Police are most in danger in the South, which accounts for 80% of all executions (90% in 2000).

5) The system is too costly: Numerous state studies indicate that that capital cases are much more expensive than comparable non-death penalty cases. A recent Kansas study found the following:

• The investigation costs for death-sentence cases are about 3 times greater than for non-death cases.
• The trial costs for death cases are about 16 times greater than for non-death cases ($508,000 for death case; $32,000 for non-death case).
• The appeal costs for death cases are 21 times greater.
• The costs of carrying out (i.e. incarceration and/or execution) a death sentence are about twice the costs of carrying out a non-death sentence in a comparable case.
• Trials involving a death sentence averaged 34 days, including jury selection; non-death trials averaged about 9 days.


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