Jeff Sadow’s column defending capital punishment ignores important facts. Clearly, he supports the Louisiana attorney general's emotional appeal to politicize the pain of victims by fanning the flames of support for the death penalty. While Sadow and the AG may be sincere, they ignore the biggest flaws in how the death penalty is administered in the United States: It's arbitrary, racially discriminatory and doesn't deter crime. In Louisiana, it's also wrong four out of five times. Let's consider some facts.
An intellectually honest op-ed about Louisiana’s death penalty would acknowledge a 2016 study by researchers at the University of North Carolina, finding that 127 of 155 resolved Louisiana death penalty cases from 1976 through 2015 ended with a reversal of the sentence — an 82 percent reversal rate that is nearly 10 points above the national average. It would look at Louisiana’s wrongful conviction rate and be concerned that we lead the nation per capita in exonerations from death row. A scholar should be disturbed that a black man is 30 times more likely to be sentenced to death in Louisiana if the victim is a white woman as opposed to another black man. No white person has been executed in Louisiana for a crime against a black victim since 1752.
It is not surprising that the attorney general (who is apparently running for governor) is attacking the governor on the issue of the death penalty. What is surprising is an assistant professor of political science attacking the governor for abiding by the law, as he is sworn to do as an elected official and as a lawyer. The law presently prevents unconstitutional executions.
Whether it is the cost of the death penalty, the method of execution, the 11 exonorees off Louisiana’s death row, the 82 percent reversal rate of Louisiana’s death sentences, or the pope declaring the penalty unacceptable, citizens of Louisiana must look long and hard at who gets the death penalty and why 82 percent of those sentences are overturned — and whether this is a policy we want to endorse as a state. It is also very expensive if done legally and constitutionally. Violent crime is a serious problem warranting serious, careful consideration. And we should seek to repair the harm done to every victim — not just politicize the pain of victims' survivors. We, as citizens, must be better than that.