DAVID ROSMAN: Missouri's death penalty is a costly mistake

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:14 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The last time I wrote about the death penalty, “Guilty until proven innocent, or guilty even when innocent?,” was just more than two-years ago and then concerning executions in Texas and Georgia. Now it is executions in the Show-Me-State.

In 2011, I discussed those who have been sitting on death row and the number of people who have been exonerated with new DNA evidence. The number is becoming staggering, and I still believe that each man and woman on death row needs to have this one chance to prove innocence or guilt beyond a shadow of doubt.

Missouri’s current entry into the death penalty deals with the availability of the anesthetic propofol. It is not that the drug is not readily available. In fact, it is one of the most widely used anesthetics on the market. It is just that 85-percent of propofol is manufactured in Europe, and the European Union has this thing about executions: Just say no for moral reasons.

I have a few reasons for opposing the death penalty. The first is the legal costs of execution versus the cost of life imprisonment.

Over years of teaching, I have had many a student give the cost of execution versus life without parole (LWOP) speech, and even those who are for a sentence of death, even in limited cases, are taken aback at the cost of the legal process, most of which is borne by our tax dollars. Here is some information for you to ponder:

Colorado estimates that it would save $1 million a year by eliminating the death penalty. Kansas’ estimate is $500,000 annually.

Attorney David Dow writes that one inmate on death row in California stated “that he’d rather be executed than have his opportunities for appeal taken away.” That inmates on death row spent about 20-years before their appeals have run their course spending “twenty-three hours a day in sixty-square-foot cells with no TV, limited access to radio, books or magazines, and no contact with other human beings.” It is the same for most Life Without Parole inmates. Prison is not the country club many believe.

A 2012 editorial in the Daily Iowan noted that the death penalty “is not the most effective means of determent, and will not provide the most severe means of punishment in the eyes of the criminal.”

The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice estimated that the state spends $137 million per year on death row inmates where they spend only $11.5 million on LWOP.

On May 27, 2013, The Kansas City Star talked about the moral implications of the execution. They wrote, “Killing people who are accused of killing people simply puts the state on the same debased moral level as the criminals.”

Those who believe that being sentenced to LWOP is more than “three hots and a cot” need to look closer at the idea of retaliation and the adage of and eye-for-an-eye mentality. I ask that the governor and those who support the death penalty ask themselves if they would rather spend the rest of their lives living 23-hours in a small cell with little, if any outside, contact or be put to death.

For those who advocate limiting the number of appeals of a death row inmate, The Innocence Project reminds us that there are those who have been wrongly accused and convicted of murder. That new science of DNA testing not available 20 or even 10 years and other “non-DNA” means have exonerated over 300 men and women since 1992, some serving up to 35 years on death row.

Personally, I believe that death relieves the convicted killer of the misery of the pain and mental anguish of LWOP. That people like Allen Nicklasson and Joseph Franklyn, the two men currently facing state sanctioned death in Missouri, would have a greater punishment of life without the possibility of release and a limited number of appeals.

Gov. Jay Nixon has long been an advocate of the death penalty and is now examining new “protocols” of delivering lethal injections or possibly the return to the gas chamber.

I urge Gov. Nixon to rethink his position on the death penalty, that in this time of budget difficulties and inadequate funding for public defenders, with an ever increasing number of men and women exonerated, with a moratorium on propofol by its major manufacturer, and stay orders of execution and convert them to LWOP.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He writes a weekly column for the Missourian.

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Ellis Smith October 16, 2013 | 8:00 a.m.

Rosman reads the "Daily Iowan"? I'm impressed (well, only a little).

Iowa, the only Midwestern state to date where Adam has a legal choice of either marrying Eve or Steve, abolished the death penalty for first degree murder some years ago.

Thereafter, at the Drake Diner in Des Moines just days before Christmas, a holdup took place. The restaurant, near Drake University, was packed, as it usually is.

The manager, concerned about the safety of the diners and his employees, quickly emptied the register.

As the perps were exiting (as I recall there were three of them), one turned fully around, smiled broadly at the manager, raised his weapon, said "Merry Christmas!," and SHOT THE MANAGER DEAD.

What would constitute a fitting "societal" response to such an outrage? We've noted that Liberal humanists are VERY concerned about "society," and about being politically correct.

The murderer and his gang were subsequently apprehended, and he was tried. The judge and the press bemoaned that the individual could only be given a life sentence for his crime. There was even an abortive move to reinstate the death penalty.

Our story has an interesting - and possibly just - ending. While in the state maximum security prison this individual managed to get crosswise with another lifer, known to be very dangerous. Our "Merry Christmas!" friend was stabbed to death.

"The Lord works in mysterious ways, his wonders to behold."

I will no doubt be accused of taking an isolated situation to make a point, something the Left seems all too fond of doing. :) What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams October 16, 2013 | 9:05 a.m.

It's odd Rosman would use the European "Just say no for moral reasons" pleas in his article. If the drug was used for abortions, but the European country-of-origin objected on moral grounds, he'd change his tune in a real hurry, you betcha.

I'm just sure of it.

Count me as one in favor of changing the kinds of evidence required for the death penalty. Rosman rightly points out that some found guilty have been exonerated by DNA or other scientific proof. Things like eye-witness accounts, circumstantial and other evidence, and the like can be notoriously poor as "proof" even if deemed so by a jury. We now have at our scientific disposal the means to prove guilt or innocence (and presence/absence) with fingerprints, DNA, and other biomarkers, and these things should be present before a death penalty is even considered. In their absence, life-without-parole seems the only real option.

For me, the death penalty is not about deterring others bent on similar crimes. In fact, I think it does no such thing. It's about swift and sure justice and societal revenge. I actually agree with Hank Waters' admittedly sarcastic approach that such "revenge" on society's behalf be made available to the public for viewing on an at-will basis. He may not like that I favor his tongue-in-cheek suggestion, tho, since sarcastic words are not meant to be believed and accepted.

PS: The existence of DNA, fingerprints, and other metabolic markers should eliminate Rosman's objection that it costs more in execution appeals than life-without-parole. Why does it cost more in appeals, you ask? The answer is, "We allow so many types of appeals." Let's go directly to the source of the problem instead of beating around the bush.....Simply recognize that the science Rosman lauds as exonerating some folks is the very same science that can conclusively say someone was a participant. With such evidence, there is no longer a reason for appeals to take that long.

The solution?

Reduce the number and types of judicial appeals where such evidence is available.

Voila! Rosman's concerns are alleviated, justice/revenge is served, a criminal will never hurt us again, and we save taxpayer money. All taking place over a very short time period. I recommend 1-2 years...max.

(Report Comment)
Dudley Sharp October 16, 2013 | 10:38 a.m.

Rosman, nor his students, ever fact checked.

It would have been a good idea.

Saving Costs with The Death Penalty

(Report Comment)
Dudley Sharp October 16, 2013 | 11:06 a.m.

With regard to “Guilty until proven innocent, or guilty even when innocent?,” , Rosman's earlier article, fact checking would have helped there, as well.

Fraudulent claims of innocence have been an anti death penalty foundation for about 100 years, inclusive of some recent ones from Texas and Georgia.

Please review:

The Innocents Frauds: Standard Anti Death Penalty Strategy

(Report Comment)
Dudley Sharp October 16, 2013 | 11:18 a.m.

Murderers much prefer life in prison. The data is overwhelming.

70% of those who commit capital murders have been in prison, before, and do all they can to get life, when, later, subject to the death penalty, just like the additonal 29.7%.

99.7% of murderers tells us "Give me life, not execution"

What we fear the most, deters the most. What we prefer, more, deters less.

Death is feared more than life, life is preferred over death, not just by murderers and potential murderers, but by all of us, with rare exceptions, maybe 0.3% of us!


(Report Comment)
Dudley Sharp October 16, 2013 | 11:50 a.m.

To clarify, which Rosman, did not:

I suspect that the "staggering" number of DNA exclusions that Rosman is referencing is the 311 post conviction numbers, which is a high number, likely representing 0.0026% of the 12 million or so convicted over the past 50 years, the subject data base.

Only 9 of those were death row inmates, released from death row, because of DNA exclusion.

9 more were released from prison, not death row, who had once been on death row, but had their sentence reduced and then, later, while serving that prison sentence, they were excluded by DNA.

Today, all 18 would have been excluded, pre trial, had DNA testing been available, as it has been since 1985.

(Report Comment)
Dudley Sharp October 16, 2013 | 12:01 p.m.

Gross Hypocrisy: Germany & US Executions
Dudley Sharp

Germany is the biggest EU complainer, regarding the US use of propofol for the execution of murderers (1), as Syria wipes out thousands of innocents with sarin gas, thanks to Germany (2).

Yeah, a real moral beacon.

(Report Comment)
Dudley Sharp October 16, 2013 | 12:07 p.m.

How about Virginia?

They have executed 70% of their death sentneced murderers since 1976, 110 murderers, and have done so within 7.1 years of sentencing, on average.

No even the normal blind speculation as to an innocent executed.

That would be less expensive than any states LWOP protocol.

(Report Comment)
Tony Black October 16, 2013 | 12:08 p.m.

OK, what does Adam marrying Eve or Steve have to do with this conversation, and since when do blogs count as fact. The few links I clicked on were links to others blogs (opinions), so I quit looking. The fact that inmates prefer life over death has nothing to do with cost.

(Report Comment)
Dudley Sharp October 16, 2013 | 12:12 p.m.

Nitrogen Gas as execution method

Cheap, painless (not even a needle prick), no gasping for air, readily available, easy to administer (tank and mask, only), impossible to boycot or withhold.

Go to sleep, don't wake up.

"Killing with kindness - capital punishment by nitrogen asphyxiation", National Review, Sept 11, 1995 by Stuart A. Creque

(Report Comment)
Tony Black October 16, 2013 | 12:12 p.m.

And I understand the "so what if 1 innocent guy is executed, the guilty have to pay" mindset. It's the same one as "people are scamming welfare so cut off funding for kids and people who do need it, just to be safe" thought.

(Report Comment)
Dudley Sharp October 16, 2013 | 12:15 p.m.



Had you read the article, you would have known that Rosman discussed many things, cost and preference for life over death, being two, which is why I addressed them.

(Report Comment)
Dudley Sharp October 16, 2013 | 12:27 p.m.

Reply to Michael Williams:

There is no putting the genie back in the bottle.

There is no going back, pre 1965, to much shorter appeals.

Likely, responsible protocols could get it down to 6 years, with 2-4 years at the state level and 2-4 at the federal level, averaging 6 years, for all cases.

As all states have death penalty cass ending up at their State Supreme Court, all states could exclude all lower state courts and go directly to that one court, prior to moving on to the federal system.

You can't get that done at the federal level.

Virginia, is, by far, the most responsible, in their death penalty appeals, averaging 7.1 years of appeals, on average, through both state and federal courts.

The main hold up with these cases are anti death penalty judges, who you just can't throw out - some are appointed, some elected. They are the problem.

(Report Comment)
Dudley Sharp October 16, 2013 | 12:37 p.m.

Gross Hypocrisy: Germany & US Executions
Dudley Sharp

Germany is complaining about the US using propofol for the execution of murderers (1), as Syria wipes out thousands of innocents with sarin gas, thanks to Germany (2).

A real moral beacon.

1) German firm halts US exports over execution drug row, Oman Tribune

2) Report: Germany gave Syria ingredients for deadly gas in 2011

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith October 16, 2013 | 2:02 p.m.

@ Tony Black:

Apparently my attempt at humor went awry. What I was attempting to point out is that in terms of Conservative or Liberal slant, Iowa is ahead of Missouri in the Liberal department. Whether that is a good or bad thing is beyond my pay grade to decide.

I'd like to take this post to apologize for failing to capitalize "His" in a sentence when referring to God: that's both bad English and might insult Jews and Christians.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams October 16, 2013 | 4:51 p.m.

Ellis: You annoyed the easily-annoyed PC crowd.

Shame on you.

Good job.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams October 16, 2013 | 4:55 p.m.

Dudley: All genies can be put back in a bottle.

Society simply has to have the will......

Which, of course, we don't in this case.

Yet. Not until we hit rock bottom in many financial, legal, and cultural ways.

Besides, current protocols are part of the AJSA*** and must not be trifled with.

AJSA = attorney job security act.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith October 16, 2013 | 6:36 p.m.

Michael Williams:

I will readily admit to being annoying.

I really do need to get some new spell check software. I get most of my software from a guy named Wolfgang, who now lives in Prague. It's crap, but I feel sorry for Wolfgang: the poor guy hasn't had a steady source of income since they closed down the Stazi in 1989 and he fled to Prague.

Why is it that some folks agonize over taking the life of a convicted murderer but seem not to have any problem with terminating the lives of unborn children?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams October 16, 2013 | 9:50 p.m.

Ellis: Because a "personhood" diploma is given, and humans rights are conferred, upon successful completion of the class entitled "Passage Thru A Narrow But Short Squeeze Tube 101."

It matters which side you're on....

I probably won't be able to respond further. Locked out, ya know.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking October 17, 2013 | 3:31 a.m.

Just a little comment from my world to "Dudley":

No asphyxiation method is "painless". The American Veterinary Medical Association does not recommend nitrogen gas for euthanasia except under unusual circumstances. It does cause gasping for air and a feeling of drowning that lasts for many seconds.

There are a dozen drugs they could use, but this shouldn't be one of them.


(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith October 17, 2013 | 5:11 a.m.


Also, unborn humans are not elgible to vote, and if they were, they might not vote as some would have them vote.

I'm pleased to see that Mark has signed on here, and, as usual, has posted useful information.

Have you read (left-hand column on Missourian home page) the piece about the first job "sucking" ("From Readers")? As of last night there had been no post from you on that topic, and I am wondering why.

I'd hate to have to believe I was short changed by my alma mater on my college education. Quite the opposite: I think I received a huge bargain. I know many alums from our campus - from differing eras as students - who feel the same, including one from my era who became president of General Motors and another from a more recent era who was recently president of University of Missouri System.

(Report Comment)

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