Sunday, November 04, 2007

Abolishing the death penalty by making it too expensive

From The New York Times
States unwilling to pay the huge costs of defending people charged in capital cases may be unable to conduct executions.

For Brian Nichols, accused of killing four in the courthouse shooting in March 2005, the costs have already reached $1.2 million. That, together with legislative cuts, has left the state public defender system with no money. Until the bills are paid, the judge has delayed the trial, saying that it is unconstitutional not to pay the defense and thus pointless to proceed. In turn, lawmakers have accused him of conspiring to end the death penalty in Georgia.

The state could avoid the multimillion-dollar trial by dropping the death penalty option. Mr. Nichols has offered to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life without parole, but the district attorney, Paul L. Howard Jr., has declined.
Reality always intervenes—even if it takes a long time. This is the legal equivalent of evolutionary pressure. The cost of the death penalty has risen because those opposed have insisted that the accused receive a reasonable defense. That's justified under our legal system. Since there really is no reasonable defense against a charge where the penalty may be execution, the price has risen to the point that it is unaffordable.

I particularly like this example (although I should do a better job of explaining it) because it relates evolutionary processes, politics, economics, the centrality of energy to all dynamically emergent phenomena.

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