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Horowitz's Notepad Archive

Death Penalty Study: A Left-wing Scam

June 12, 2000

David Horowitz is editor-in-chief of FrontPage Magazine and president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture.

On the front page of your paper this morning (June 12) you will find the latest left-wing academic-political scam, a Columbia University "study" of the death penalty which purports to show that "the system is broken." Naturally the left-wing media (the New York Times, the LA Times, etc.) is presenting this political scam as solid evidence that 1) there are vast miscarriages of justice in death penalty cases and 2) George Bush is a heartless Republican. The New York Times' headline goes like this:

DEATH SENTENCES BEING OVERTURNED IN 2 OF 3 APPEALS. WIDE REACHING STUDY. REVERSALS ARE ATTRIBUTED TO ERRORS BY DEFENSE LAWYERS, POLICE AND PROSECUTORS.

Nonsense. What the report actually does is to take the record of anti-death penalty appeals court judges who overturned sentences mainly for political reasons and then to present these statistics as though they reflected what would have been actual miscarriages of justice had the sentences been carried out.

For example, the Report records that 87% of the death penalty cases in California between 1973 and 1995 were "reversed." The implication is that the death sentences were wrongly imposed. But this is far from the truth. What these reversals represent is a political campaign by the left to subvert the death penalty - the law be damned. No one was executed in California after 1973 (Governor "Moon Beam" Jerry Brown was elected in 1972), until the anti-death penalty chief justice of the California Supreme Court (appointed by Brown) was removed and a Republican Governor was able to put in place justices who respected the law.

Everyone in California remembers Supreme Chief Justice Rose Bird (the ideological leftist appointed by Brown) who voted to overturn every single one of the 39 death penalty appeals brought before her court in the 1970s and 1980s. She voted to overturn the sentences because she opposed the death penalty on principle not because innocent people were going to be executed. Many notorious killers got off because of her irresponsible, callous, criminal disregard for the law, and some may have killed again.

So outrageous was her misconduct and contempt for the law as Supreme Court chief justice that she and two of her left-wing colleagues became the targets of a recall movement and were removed from the court. The fact that the Times would give this academic scam the lead position on its front page, and would perform a public relations service for the scammers instead of objectively reporting it -- flaws and all (as it certainly would a conservative study) -- is a disgrace.

But not a surprise. The corruption of our academic and press institutions by the political left has been going on for so long and has reached a point of such magnitude where abysmal disregard for the normal standards of academic inquiry and journalistic reportage is normal, that it is hard to take either institution seriously anymore.