Saturday, October 31, 2015

Clinton accepts Democratic nomination, begins general election campaign

That's my interpretation of Clinton's carefully limited support for the death penalty. She gave a few things to the left before the last Democratic debate, and may even occasionally throw a bone to them in the next few months, but she's running now to win the general election.

There no point in being too cynical. Clinton said capital punishment should be very limited and rare, and not racially biased as it has been, but not eliminated entirely. Maybe she believes it too, I don't know. Maybe Bernie Sanders believes it when he's to the right of most Democrats on gun control. I'm not sure how much that personal belief matters at their political level.

I do have a suggestion for Clinton is she truly wants to make capital punishment very limited and rare - focus on reducing the chance of executing someone who's factually innocent. It's very hard to knock that possibility down to zero, given enough executions over time, but limiting the death penalty to two categories could take it to near zero:

1. Murder where rape was also committed, and evidence includes both a confession by the defendant and DNA evidence corroborating the rape. You need the DNA evidence because false confessions happen.

2. Defendant is accused of mass murder, say five or more people. This assumes a high-profile case means defendants will be assigned adequate attorneys. The Virginia example, from being a top death penalty state to no sentences since 2011, shows the effect from a change that gave defendants better representation.

Again I'm not saying this would eliminate the execution of factually innocent people, but it would make that much less likely, and campaigning against executing innocent people would play well in the general election against Rubio.

Would be nice if Obama hurried up his evolution, though.

UPDATE:  I agree with this argument that excluding jurors who oppose the death penalty from the guilt phase of the trial makes for a biased jury that is more likely to mistakenly convict the defendant. Trials should be bifurcated with one jury panel for determining guilt, and the other deciding whether to impose the death penalty. A side advantage of this is that capital murder cases take up a lot of a juror's time, so splitting the responsibility among multiple jurors is more fair to people doing compulsory jury duty.

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