Thursday, December 22, 2005

One-way ticket straight down

Noticed this story in the blogosphere earlier.

Death Penalty/Tookie Williams

Judge Posner has an interesting discussion of the effects of capital punishment, and observations of the Williams case:

Early empirical analysis by Isaac Ehrlich found a substantial incremental deterrent effect of capital punishment, a finding that coincides with the common sense of the situation: it is exceedingly rare for a defendant who has a choice to prefer being executed to being imprisoned for life. [Ed: Posner also notes that Ehrlich's study, though met with heavy criticims in years since the study, has recently received renewed support by subsequent economics studies] . . . these authors found that one execution deters 18 murders. Although this ratio may seem implausible given that the probability of being executed for committing a murder is less than 1 percent [out of all murderers]. . . . Even a 1 percent probability of death is hardly trivial; most people would pay a substantial amount of money to eliminate such a probability.

[Turning to the Williams case] the major argument made for clemency was that he had reformed in prison and, more important, had become an influential critic of the type of gang violence in which he had engaged. . . . On the one hand, if murderers know that by "reforming" on death row they will have a good shot at clemency, the deterrent effect of the death penalty will be reduced. . . . [C]lemency is the currency in which such activities [William's writings agains violence] are compensated and therefore encouraged. Presumably grants of clemency on such a basis should be rare, since there probably are rapidly diminishing social returns to death-row advocacy, along with diminished deterrence as a result of fewer executions. For the more murderers under sentence of death there are who publicly denounce murder and other criminality, the less credibility the denunciations have.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Requirement of ID teaching ruled unconstitutional

A federal district court judge today in PA released an opinion declaring the school board resolution--requiring schools in the district to teach Intelligent Design in its classrooms--to be out of accord with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. I have some thoughts about this that I hope to blog before the end of the week.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Media Bias?

Proof that the media is no different than the political parties themselves in terms of the spin put on stories: Compare the two headlines from Bush's speech today. First note the CNN story. Contrast it with Fox News. Titles are meant to convey a great deal of importance, yes?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Reminder to keep your sense of humor

As we study for finals, let us take inspiration from Kathleen Sullivan, recent Dean of Stanford Law, constitutional law scholar, and frequent Supreme Court advocate, who this summer failed the California Bar Exam.