studies

Death penalty data might surprise you


April 13, 2021

For some, an “eye for an eye” is justice. To others, it makes the whole world blind.

Last month, Virginia became the 23rd state to abolish the death penalty, and first to do so in the South — where four times more people are executed than the rest of the U.S. combined. That’s a big change for a state second only to Texas in executions since 1976.

American public opinion is increasingly turning against the death penalty.

A 2020 Gallup Poll found 55 percent of Americans support the death penalty in general, down from a peak of 80 percent in 1994. And for the first time, a majority (60 percent) say life imprisonment without parole is a better punishment for murder than execution.

Seventy percent of nations have ended the practice (although 60 percent of the world’s population live in death penalty nations), according to Amnesty International.

Unlike other issues, this doesn’t fall perfectly along party lines. While Democrats are less likely to support the death penalty over a life sentence, Gallup surveys show the percentage of Republicans who feel the same increased 10 points since 2016. Reasons for opposition are complicated, spanning generational, statistical, and moral grounds.

Fewer executions. According to U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 2010 and 2020 death sentences imposed nationwide numbered fewer than half of the decade before. Some states such as California have it on the books, but rarely use it or have a moratorium now.

Generational shift. The death penalty is one of those issues with an age divide. Gallup polls indicate Americans between 18 and 34 support the death penalty at almost half the rate (24 percent) of their older peers (40 percent).

Racial justice. Young adults also tend to be more passionate about racial justice, especially when it’s so final. A 1990 U.S. Government Accountability Office study found defendants of any race who murdered white people were more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered Black people.

Recent studies reported in the New York Times and The Monitor Weekly came to similar conclusions. Latinos, Native Americans and the poor are also disproportionately represented on death row. (A long history of race-dissimilar treatment in the justice system for other crimes was echoed in the oft-cited book, “The New Jim Crowe.”)

Debates in the legislature noted of nearly 1,400 people Virginia executed since 1608, it wasn’t until 1997 that a white man was executed for killing a Black man.

What if they’re innocent? Justice is earnest, but fallible. An average of four people on death row each year in the U.S. are exonerated. History has uncovered others who were exonerated too late. You don’t have to be young to feel the heartbreak in that.

Life in prison is cheaper. Because of high costs associated with capital trials and statutory appeals, life incarceration costs states less than execution. Virginia expects to save $4 million per year. Capital trials may also be more taxing on victims’ families, typically lasting up to four times longer than non-capital trials.

After two Idaho death-row inmates were released from prison in one year, Idaho’s bipartisan Joint Legislative Oversight Committee studied cases between 1998 and 2013. Their 2014 report concluded Idaho death penalty trials take an average seven months longer than non-capital murder trials, and appeals took about 50 percent longer.

Of the 251 defendants charged with first-degree murder during that period, 16 percent faced the death penalty and less than 3 percent received it. Of 40 sentenced to death in Idaho since 1977, three have been executed (21 got a new sentence on appeal). The JLOC reported other states had results similar to Idaho’s.

“Pro-life” consistency. Some conservatives oppose capital punishment on religious or moral grounds. Republican legislators in red states such as Wyoming, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, and Missouri have sponsored legislation to abolish it. Pro-life, they reason, applies to every life, not just the innocent unborn. And as death can’t be undone, life’s too precious (or constitutionally protected) to risk a mistake, they say.

Still, Republican majorities remain strongly in favor. Supporters say the death penalty is a just punishment for murder. And while life in prison can feel like a kind of hell, execution is seen as the only way to ensure the convicted will never kill again.

Is it a deterrent? Logic would presume yes, but states with death penalties don’t have lower crime rates. FBI Uniform Crime Report data culled by Deathpenaltyinfo.org indicate murder rates per population in death penalty states were consistently higher than in non-death penalty states between 1990 (4 percent higher) and 2018 (30 percent higher).

Do victims’ families want it? Numbers aside, closure and healing for victims’ families is high priority. Individual circumstances make it hard to gauge. Some ask prosecutors not to seek the death penalty — including a group of victims’ families who lobbied the Virginia Legislature to abolish it. Yet others vehemently want it, saying it’s the only way they can feel closure.

A 2012 study of 40 families by the universities of Texas and Minnesota found families in life-without-parole cases reported being able to move on sooner than those in the death-sentence cases. The death penalty case families said they felt continually retraumatized by the longer process.

Psychological and sociological research on closure suggests the legal process in general isn’t a reliable source to achieve it either way. It can feel symbolic and reassuring to seek justice, but the law doesn’t allow much room for emotion (Bandes, 2008).

This shifting trend is yet another illustration of American society’s impassioned debate with itself. Maybe we aren’t so “hopelessly divided” as we are experiencing growing pains in a rapidly shifting world.

STUDIES IN PSYCHOPATHY : How Psychopaths View The World (part2)


Not only do they covet possessions and power, but they gain special pleasure in usurping and taking from others (a symbolic sibling, for example); what they can plagiarize, swindle, and extort are fruits far sweeter than those they can earn through honest labor.And once having drained what they can from one source, they turn to another to exploit, bleed, and then cast aside; their pleasure in the misfortune of others is unquenchable. People are used as a means to an end; they are to be subordinated and demeaned so that the antisocial can vindicate themselves…

The causes of this sociopathic disorder have been narrowed to several factors through research. One of the primary causes of sociopathic behavior is believed to be neurological abnormalities mainly in the frontal lobe of the brain. This area is also related to fear conditioning. The abnormal anatomy or chemical activity within this area of the brain may be caused by abnormal growth (possibly genetic), brain disease, or injury. This theory has been supported by much research using positron emission tomography (PET) which visually shows the metabolic activity of neurons within the brain (Sabbatini, 1998).The amygdalae, two small regions buried near the base of the brain, have long been known to affect aggression, sexuality and recklessness. Recently, they have also been shown to affect how people interpret the emotions of others. Subtle damage to the amygdalae may explain many of the characteristics of psychopaths – including the difficulty of getting through to them emotionally. It may be that they simply cannot “see” emotions in others.

The psychopath is a manipulator, who knows exactly what makes us tick and knows how to manipulate and influence our feelings.

They have the talent to spot “kind, caring” women.

Mimicry is often used to convince others that the psychopath is a normal human being. He does this to create a false empathy with his victim. The psychopath will try to make you believe he has normal emotions by spinning some sad tale or professing profound, moving experiences; the truth is, most psychopaths go through life as in an incubator, touched by few and having no real compassion for others; but they will lie to convince you that they have normal emotions.

The pity factor is one reason why victims often fall for these “poor” people.

Lying is like breathing to the psychopath. When caught in a lie and challenged, they make up new lies, and don’t care if they’re found out. As Hare states,

“Lying, deceiving, and manipulation are natural talents for psychopaths…When caught in a lie or challenged with the truth, they are seldom perplexed or embarrassed — they simply change their stories or attempt to rework the facts so that they appear to be consistent with the lie. The results are a series of contradictory statements and a thoroughly confused listener.” [Hare].

Often, their behavior serves to confuse and repress their victims, or to influence anyone who might listen to the psychopath’s side of the story.

Manipulation is the key to their conquests, and lying is one way they achieve this.

One almost amusing example of how psychopaths lie can be exemplified by a man who’s footprint was discovered at the scene of the crime. “No, that’s not my foot” he said, even though everyone knew he was lying.

This is how psychopaths operate. They will deny reality until their victims have a nervous breakdown. Often, the psychopath will turn on the victim and claim that the victim suffers from “delusions” and is not mentally stable.

The psychopath is primarily distracted and impressed by his own grandiose self-representation, which often leads to him unwittingly telling people things that lead to his detection. They often forget the lies they told and tell contradicting tales, which often makes the listener wonder if either the psychopath is crazy, although in this case the psychopath isn’t really crazy — he’s just forgotten what lies he’s told.

The most amazing thing, however, is their selective memory. A psychopath might not remember the promises he made to you yesterday, but he will remember something from the past if it suits his purposes in some way. They often do this whenever they’re confronted or caught in a lie.

Most psychopaths are very arrogant and cocky. However, when charming a potential victim, they say all the “right” things and make you believe they are kind-hearted souls; not always, but often enough. The truth is, psychopaths are not altruistic and do not really care about friendships or ties.

Guggenbuhl-Craig states that ” they are very talented at appearing much more humble than the average person, but are hardly so.” Some are also able to feign concern about the lower classes and profess that they are on the side of the underdog, the poor, and so forth. A psychopath may claim, for instance (if he’s from a low socioeconomic class), that he dislikes rich people intensely, but at the same time, he will inwardly yearn and envy what they have. He is like the narcissist, desiring to reflect a false image of himself through his possessions. Among his possessions are included human beings: girlfriends, wives, and children.

Some psychopaths can even be very fond of animals (contrary to the common viewpoint), but still view them as objects in relation to themselves.

In general, most psychopaths will brag endlessly about their exploits and “bad” things they’ve done (often called a warning sign, which will ward off careful souls), but more often than not, the woman who is fascinated by him will not listen to reason, even if she is warned by others who know him about his past behaviors.

Why? Once again, because the psychopath makes her feel so “special.”

Please ladies, if you’re stuck on any man who is like this, you must come to terms with the fact that it is NOT his REAL personality. He is only playing a ROLE for you.

Dr. Black states that one of the most obvious signs of psychopathy is the way the individual will brag about his experiences, no matter “how unsavory…his apparent comfort with his deviant behavior, the ease with which he discuss(es) breaking every rule, (is) consistent with ASP (psychopathy).” [Black, 68].

The psychopath is filled with greed inside, relating to the world through power, even though, as I said, on the outside he can claim to be on the side of the disenfranchised or the downtrodden. I knew one who liked to repeat phrases such as “they have to stop keeping my brothers down” but he didn’t mean a word of it. He was actually a racist. The psychopath can also often identify himself as a revolutionary.As mentioned, psychopaths often claim to settle for second best (being their own worst enemy) and then think they deserve better. This may be manifested in the way they seek power — either through money (i.e. material goods), manipulation and/or treating people as objects. By enacting such behaviors, the psychopath is also trying to “get back” at society and the world, in order to gain retribution. They will spend their entire lives doing this, whether they are rich or poor, or whatever their social background may be, although studies have shown that they often come from an impoverished or lower socio- economic background and/or social status. (In one of Dr. Donald Black’s studies, many of the men were “overwhelmingly white, blue collar, lower middle class, and married, and most had not graduated from high school.”

What is very disturbing about psychopaths, besides their sense of special entitlement, is the complete lack of empathy for normal people, for “antisocials (psychopaths) seem to lack a conscience, feeling little or no empathy for the people whose lives they touch…the antisocial effortlessly resists all regulation, unable to see beyond his self-interest or to adopt standards of right versus wrong.”.

Not all psychopath are uneducated low-class misfits. Some of them are quite handsome and have good careers, and use this all the more to their benefit. Take a look at Ted Bundy; my friend’s mother once went on a double-date with him and claimed he was the nicest person. His mother said he was the “best son any mother could have.” Bundy was also apparently quite good-looking, which made him even more dangerous. So not all psychopaths are derelict, low-class, high school drop-outs, there are many who also work in professional occupations; the fact remains that there are just more psychopaths who come from impoverished backgrounds than not.

Also, not all psychopaths are calm, cool, and collected. Some of them appear strange or odd, and their behavior can be eccentric or unusual. I believe this is what can confuse victims most often. Psychopaths often appear intense and “electrifying”. Do not be misled if someone appears harmless, “foolish”, or seems offbeat. An “angelic” visage can also often fool people. Just picture John Wayne Gacy in his “clown costume” as he entertained children as one example.

Another example which someone on the “Victims of Psychopathy” board came up with was Bill Clinton and his “goofy” yet loveable demeanor (so is Clinton really a psychopath? Many believe he is).

A psychopath (he was diagnosed anti-social) I knew used the harmless cover-up quite well. Everyone thought he was very funny. I did too, at first. Then, little by little, I realised there was something “not right” about him. At first his seemingly harmless pranks were charming, but after a while, he became more of a nuisance and disrupted our work environment, which created havoc and tension between employees. I’ve learned, a psychopath can use these disguises for his own hidden purpose.

Regardless of race, social class, or occupation, however, the psychopath is dangerous to society, for “the nature of ASP (psychopathy) implies that it wreaks more havoc on society than most other mental illnesses do, since the disorder primarily involves reactions against the social environment that drag other people into its destructive web…The despair and anxiety wrought by antisocials (psychopaths) tragically affects families and communities, leaving deep physical and emotional scars…”.

There is much to the psychopathic personality which is baffling and disturbing. 1 in about 25-30 people are psychopathic (also known as sociopaths or anti-social — the correct title being psychopath.) Since the majority or them are men, wendy wrote to warn women about the dangers, especially women online, which I believe is a favourite “new medium” which appeals to psychopaths. I have personal experience with this subject as well. This is because “antisocials (psychopaths) are not just characters in our fictional or true-life entertainments. They are family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, or strangers we may encounter every day.”

Pamela Jayne, M.A., writes that “30% of men are sociopathic.” [QFG note that she is not using the term “psychopath”.] If about every three out of ten men I may meet are psychopathic, I would assume this is not something to take lightly. According to these statistics, that would mean every three out of ten men and maybe every one out of ten females.

The truth is, we do not really know exactly how many individuals are psychopathic; however, there seems to be a rise in the prevalence of psychopathy and that is why some claim that numbers are higher. Dr. Black claims that psychopathy leads right behind depression, along with schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder, which is an astounding fact.

[QFG note: Hare says that Psychopathy is MORE prevalent than depression, schizophrenia and BPD. For all we know, many people who are depressed, become schizophrenic, or develop BPD, do so as a result of interactions with psychopaths. Psychologist Andrew Lobaczewski says as much in his book “Political Ponerology.”]

Psychopaths are often witty and articulate and almost always “glib.” They can be “amusing and entertaining conversationalists, ready with a quick and clever comeback, and can tell unlikely but convincing stories

They can be very effective in presenting themselves well and are often very likeable and charming. To some people, however, they seem too slick and smooth, too obviously insincere and superficial. Astute observers often get the impression that psychopaths are play-acting, mechanically “reading their lines.” 

…They may ramble and tell stories that seem unlikely in light of what is known about them. Typically, they attempt to appear familiar with sociology, psychiatry, medicine, psychology, philosophy, poetry, literature, art, or law. A signpost to this trait is often a smooth lack of concern at being found out.” 

One psychopathic individual I knew claimed that he had a genius IQ and that he was studying several different majors at college. “When I found out I had a genius IQ, that’s when all my trouble started” he said. I asked him, “Why?” He replied, “‘Cause I’m too smart for my own good.” In the end I found out these were lies because he was, in fact, a high school drop-out.

[QFG note: Being a “high-school drop-out” doesn’t mean that a person is NOT a genius. In fact, considering the U.S. education system, it is very likely that many geniuses WILL drop out due to frustration and boredom.]

Despite their failures, psychopaths have a very “narcissistic and grossly inflated view of their self-worth and importance, a truly astounding egocentricity and sense of entitlement, and see themselves as the center of the universe, as superior beings who are justified in living according to their own rules.”

They often come across as “arrogant, shameless braggarts–self-assured, opinionated, domineering, and cocky. They love to have power and control over others and seem unable to believe that people have valid opinions different from theirs. They appear charismatic or ‘electrifying’ to some people.” The psychopath is callous, remorseless, and unempathetic, although at first glance he may not seem that way. He is often exceedingly witty, chameleon-like, charming (but not always, especially when not in a “good” mood), the person who attracts a circle of admirers around him at every party, but more often that not, he is usually avoided — once people find out what he’s really like.