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NYC bike path killer rightfully spared the death penalty

May 22, 2023

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The 34-year-old man who carried out a terrorist attack in 2017 — using a truck to plow down eight victims and injure many more on a bike path in Manhattan — was sentenced to eight consecutive life sentences and a consecutive sentence of 260 years in prison. While prosecutors sought the death penalty for the killer, jurors told the judge they couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict required for capital punishment.

Straight Arrow News contributor David Pakman believes the U.S., one of the few developed nations that still allows the death penalty, is running out of arguments to keep it.

You can’t reverse the death penalty. But even if you could execute the death penalty with perfect accuracy, we know that the death penalty is also applied in a racially biased and unfair way based on skin color.

We know that from a fiscal conservatism perspective, which many on the Right claim to subscribe to, it is more expensive to go through the death penalty process than life without parole, because of the appeals and the cost of death row that are mandated and required. And when people say, “Well, just don’t give them appeals” — when you understand that there are innocent people on death row, how on earth would you justify eliminating appeals?

So there are so many different reasons to say we should not have the death penalty. And at the end of the day, the motivation often for the death penalty is revenge. And people will will write to me, they’ll say, “David, you know, you might feel differently about the death penalty if one of your loved ones had been killed in this attack.” And I agree with that. I might feel differently. But that’s a reason not to have the death penalty. What do I mean? I might feel differently, if it were my family member out of a desire for revenge, and revenge is not the point or purpose of the American justice system. So the fact that my view would be different in the heat of emotion is not evidence that we should have the death penalty.

A judge has imposed eight consecutive life sentences plus 260 years in prison for the ISIS inspired 2017 murder of eight victims and attempted murder of 18 others in this New York City Truck attack. And this is once again raising questions about the death penalty. And one of the arguments that’s being made is, you know, how many times can you keep someone in prison for the rest of their life, eight life sentences plus 260 years. It’s really just like one life sentence without parole. If this individual had killed one person instead of eight, and injured, none instead of 18, we would still say, well, prison for life. And so it’s no worse a punishment, and thus, we need the death penalty, while I understand the desire and the instinct to say, Well, if you kill eight people, it should be worse than if you kill one. And if at the end of the day, it’s prison for life either way, then something is wrong. But I very much disagree with that I am against the death penalty. And when you consider the reasons to be against the death penalty, you realize that it would not make sense to say, Well, no, in this case, this guy should be put to death. First and foremost, the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. And so at its core at the top level, it is not constitutional, it violates human dignity. It violates human rights, it inflicts more suffering, and I am against it for that reason. But let’s put that aside, imagine that it were constitutional, the death penalty has not been shown to be a deterrent to capital crimes. And I think most people would agree that this individual, as sick as they clearly were, and are, they didn’t calculate, well, I’m gonna do this because the worst I can get as eight life sentences as opposed to the death penalty, they didn’t do that. And so for these extreme sick crimes, it’s not a deterrent. Secondly, or thirdly, we know that there are mentally ill, and innocent and some mentally ill innocent people on death row and who have been put to death. That is an absolute disaster for any country that wants to be considered a developed an advanced nation.

 

And even if you put aside all of the other arguments against the death penalty, the fact that it cannot be administered with perfect accuracy, and that some innocent people are put to death, at which point it is irreversible, you put an innocent person on death row, I’m sorry, you put an innocent person in prison for life. If and when you determine actually, they’re not competent to stand trial, or actually, there’s exculpatory evidence, you can reverse that and compensate them still a tragedy. But you can do it, you can’t reverse the death penalty. But even if you could execute the death penalty with perfect accuracy, we know that the death penalty is also applied in a racially biased and unfair way based on skin color. We know that from a fiscal conservatism perspective, which many on the right claim to subscribe to, it is more expensive to go through the death penalty process than life without parole, because of the Appeals and the cost of death row that are mandated and required. And when people say, Well, just don’t give them appeals. When you understand that there are innocent people on death row, how on earth would you justify eliminating appeals. So there are so many different reasons to say we should not have the death penalty. And at the end of the day, the motivation, often for the death penalty is revenge. And people will will write to me they’ll say, David, you know, you might feel differently about the death penalty if one of your loved ones had been killed in this attack. And I agree with that. I might feel differently. But that’s a reason not to have the death penalty. What do I mean, I might feel differently, if it were my family member out of a desire for revenge, and revenge is not the point or purpose of the American justice system. So the fact that my view would be different in the heat of emotion is not evidence that we should have the death penalty. I believe over time, most of the United States, if not all of it, you might have some holdouts most of the United States is going to do away with death penalty many states already have. You look at other developed nations around the world that we would consider to be our equals in terms of development and wealth. They have mostly eliminated the death penalty. I believe that is the direction the United States is going to go. I have never heard a good argument in favor of the death penalty. The arguments are typically based around revenge and blood thirst and so on and so forth. And I believe eventually we will have almost no death penalty in the United States

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