Does the Death Penalty Work?

the death penaltyI know this subject has been written and argued about in many other forums by people much wiser than I am.  I don’t intend to re-hash all of the pros and cons about the death penalty.  But after years of working with criminal personalities as a Public Defender, I have a few “inside” comments.

I practice in a state that doesn’t have the death penalty.  But one of the reaons people who support the death penalty give is that it deters crime.  That it causes criminals to consider the penalty before committing horrendous crimes.

From my experience, that’s wrong.

1.  Almost 100% of criminals don’t think they’re going to be caught.  They may know about the possible penalty, but it doesn’t affect them since they’ll never face the death penalty anyway.  They believe they’re too clever to ever get caught.  If you don’t think you’ll get caught, why would a criminal consider the penalty?

2.  Most criminals have a personality type that is opposite of neurotic.  They rarely take responsibility for their actions and don’t worry what others will feel or think about the criminal’s behavior.  In addition, they don’t consider the future.  They only live and think in the moment.  Consequently, no matter how serious the threatened penalty, most criminals just don’t consider it.  Even if caught, convicted, and sentenced to the death penalty, it’s so far in the future from their moment when they commit the crime, it’s irrelevant for them.

3.  Chemicals play a huge role in crime.  In my experience, the majority of crimes are committed under the influence of alcohol.  Someone gets drunk, for instance, gets in a fight, and kills the victim.  Of course, a few crimes are done by “professional killers” who are doing a job.  But most crime is the result of being drunk.  A person who is drunk won’t rationally consider the consequences of their actions.  In their rage or frustration, the last thing that goes through their mind is the possiblity of the death penalty.

For all these reasons, I don’t think the death penalty deters crime.  I’m sure many of you have your own opinions—let me know what you think!

About Colin Nelson

Colin T. Nelson worked for 40 years as a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis. He tried everything from speeding tickets to first degree murder. His writing about the courtroom and the legal system give the reader a "back door" view of what goes on, what's funny, and what's a good story. He has also traveled extensively and includes those locations in his mysteries. Some are set in Southeast Asia, Ecuador,Peru, and South Africa. Readers get a suspenseful tale while learning about new places on the planet. Colin is married, has two adult children, and plays the saxophone in various bands.

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