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Simultaneously, murders began to rise. They turned up sharply to 5.5 in 1965 and climbed steadily until surpassing the old rate at 9.7 in 1973. They remained extraordinarily high, peaking at 107 in 1980 and then back up to 105 in 1991. During this 25-year period, an additional 500,000 Americans were murdered above the norms established in the 1950s and re-established after 1991.
In that year, after long, long wrestling with the courts, states began administering the death penalty again for murder. Executions climbed from above 30 in 1992 for the first time since 1962 and reached 98 by 1999. At the same time, the murder rate dropped precipitously, from 10 per 10,000 in 1992 all the way down to 5.6 in 2001. Since then legal challenges have mounted, however, and executions dropped back down to 42 in 2007. The murder rate stopped and is now rising slightly.
FOR SOME REASON, this glaring evidence is completely ignored in debates over the death penalty, although it is hard to see why. In the early 1960, murders during the course of other crimes had decreased to the point where 90 percent of homicides were “crimes of passion” — lethal arguments between family or friends. In fact, this was one of the main arguments of opponents to capital punishment — that murders were “crimes of passion” that couldn’t be deterred by legal threats.
All that rapidly changed. Without any deterrence to murdering the victim, “stranger murders” — murders where the killer and the victim had no connection — rose to more than 50 percent of homicides. This was a clear indication that such murders actually were being deterred by the presence of a death penalty but constituted the bulk of the upsurge in murder once it was discontinued.
The logic is not hard to follow. During a rape or robbery, the victim is the principal witness to the crime. The criminal can make all kinds of threats — “Don’t tell anyone or I’ll kill you,” “I know who you are, I’ll come and get you” — but they have no real impact next to the certainty of eliminating the witness altogether.
Trying to impose the death penalty indiscriminately for non-capital crimes only confuses the issue and creates more fodder for death penalty opponents. The clear case for capital punishment should be to create a bright red line between a crime against the person — rape or robbery — and murdering that person in order to try to get away with the crime. Let’s keep it that way.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online