Thursday, March 22, 2012

NYT uses anecdotal information to slam death penalty

The New York Times is opposed to the death penalty.  That is not a new revelation.  What is revealing is that the Times editorial board would resort to a summary review of a trial to make a point and only provide its readers with a snippet of information about a very serious case.

On March 19, the Times wrote, "On Feb. 29, a Philadelphia jury sentenced Derrick White to death for murder — in part because his lawyers provided the kind of ineffective counsel that has drawn harsh criticism for decades in the city.

Barely 20 when arrested in 2010, White received a death sentence after his lawyers failed to take the most rudimentary steps for capital cases. They did not enter as evidence records about his background or hire a death penalty expert to help prepare the case. The closing argument about whether he deserved death or life without parole was rambling and all but pointless, lasting 15 minutes."

Here is how described the case.  White "killed 33-year-old Abdul Taylor, a father of eight and mentor to countless neighborhood young people, outside his mother’s house on Ellsworth Street in 2010.
The jury, which heard evidence including prison tape recordings of the defendant talking to one of the alleged killers in the earlier murder, deliberated just a short time before first convicting White — and then imposing the ultimate penalty."

“People are fed up,” Prosecutor Richard Sax told “I mean we had the young woman who was just murdered because she was a witness to a murder. The murders continue unabated, and this was a fine middle-aged man who had the courage to step forward and was executed for his trouble, for his courage.”

There is no question that capital punishment in Pennsylvania needs to be reviewed.  The state has carried-out only three executions since 1976 and all three volunteered to be executed.  However, it is not helpful to use anecdotal information about a single recent trial that has not yet been reviewed to make a case for throwing out the death penalty.  The Times can, and should, do better.

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