My feelings about the death penalty are fairly complex: I don't have a simple argument that fits neatly into most political narratives. And I suspect that my readers have a fairly wide range of views as well. But I also suspect that there is one thing most of us can agree on: this man is rather frightening, and does not behave in a way that makes me think he is stable enough to be trusted with important responsibilities.
One thing which this highlights is a key article which influenced the recent Supreme Court case on the death penalty, Glossip v. Gross,
about the geography of the death penalty: https://www.bu.edu/law/central/jd/organizations/journals/bulr/documents/SMITH_001.pdf
What's stunning is the geographic variation with which it's applied. Rather than measuring at the state level, as most previous studies did, Smith examined the death penalty at the county level, and found that the variation is far greater than previously expected. It turns out that only 121 counties (out of a total of 3,143 in the US) account for 76% of all death sentences; twenty-nine of those counties alone accounted for 44%.
In the news article below, Smith commented that his study did not actually drill down far enough: in Caddo Parish, for example – one of those most active counties – the death sentences overwhelmingly came from cases prosecuted by one man, in this case, Dale Cox. And these dynamics do indeed seem to be tied to the person rather than the place: for example, when Lynne Abraham left her post as Philadelphia's DA, the rate of death sentences dropped by a factor of three.
The serious consequence of this is that not only is the death penalty being applied nonuniformly by race and class, and by geography, but it appears to be applied in a fashion determined overwhelmingly by the individual personalities of a handful of prosecutors across the country, who are responsible for the large majority of all death sentences. These prosecutors are not systematically in high-crime areas; other prosecutors in adjacent counties, or counties with comparable statistics, show radically incomparable numbers.
This is, in brief, fucked up. If a main function of the law is to render interactions between people more predictable, with known consequences for known actions, then to have this level of variation from county to county, or from prosecutor to prosecutor, destroys that predictability entirely.
And quite besides that, it would seem that some of the prosecutors in question are of questionable stability. A man who describes his job goal as to "kill more people" (his words, and he has stood by them), who threatens defense counsel when they file opposing motions, and who will gladly give lectures about how (despite sharply declining murder rates) "we've become a jungle" and more killing is needed, does not strike me as the sort of person who necessarily should be in the streets unsupervised, much less acting with the power of life and death over others.
One thing which I feel very strongly about with regards to any form of justice, but especially with the death penalty: If you're going to do it, you have to do it right. This is not, by any standard, doing it right.