(((My Fellow Americans))) #115: Maurice Chammah

(((My Fellow Americans)))

About This Episode

Use of the death penalty has been waning for years, but the debate about whether or not government should have the power to condemn any of us to death continues to rage on.

Does it deter people from committing murder?

Does it save taxpayers money from not having to imprison murderers for life?

Are innocent people being executed?

Maurice Chammah writes for The Marshall Project and is the Author of Let The Lord Sort Them: The Rise And Fall Of The Death Penalty, and tonight we are going to do a deep-dive into this debate.

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Episode Transcript

This episode transcript is auto-generated and a provided as a service to the hearing impaired. We apologize for any errors or inaccuracies.

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as always i am now going to begin i’m
going to hand it off i’m going to hand
off this episode over to me
wearing a different shirt where i
interviewed maurice shema
my guest tonight is a staff writer at
the marshall project which is a
nonpartisan nonprofit news organization
that works tyler tirelessly to push for
serious reform on the u.s criminal
justice system he’s also the author of
the book let the lord sort them the rise
and fall of the death penalty which came
out back in 2019. uh he writes a lot
about the death penalty you can see his
work in the marshallproject.org
and occasionally he’s also written for
the new yorker the atlantic and the new
york times we’re going to be talking
about just that the death penalty
tonight ladies and gentlemen my fellow
americans please welcome to the show mr
maurice shema maurice thanks so much for
coming on man
hi thank you so much for having me great
to be here yeah i’m really looking
forward to this uh when we were before
we started uh i’ve been hoping ever
since uh i heard that you were going to
be my guest this week that your last
name was pronounced shema because that’s
uh you know as a jew uh you know we do
the shamash
um and i’ve
have whenever i see a name like this i’m
like please be shimad please be and it’s
usually yeah
or something like that i’m like oh crap
all right maybe next time so i’m very
excited so you’re already one of my
favorite guests already just because of
your last name so thank you for glad to
hear it yeah i always uh it’s a arabic
okay hold on hold on sorry we’re gonna
so i did not check this your name is not
dr wolf on layer oh no but that is
hilarious uh no
go for it
no that’s well so this is a perfect
example of something good no that’s
great and i guess if you just want to
put like
i don’t know author let the lord sort
them or something yeah yeah that’s what
i’m going to put um
that’s hilarious
i honestly might leave this in just i i
like for my my my followers to see
that yeah that it’s absolutely human
right clown yeah i’m probably i’m
actually i’m gonna leave that in so
let’s just go ahead with it so uh yeah
uh thank you for having a jewish
sounding last name
yeah absolutely i uh father was a jew
from from syria and uh it’s an arabic
word but i grew up jewish and um that
was always the easy shorthand for
explaining to people how to pronounce my
last name so that’s cool i’m glad it was
helpful here too yes it was very helpful
uh and and also the fact that you aren’t
dr uh wolf who was a great guest last
week but you’re gonna be
i mean we could call you i’ll call i
told you i’ll call my guests whatever
they want to be called you want to be dr
wolfe dr schmann it’s fine um so maurice
uh the death penalty we have uh a very
hotly contested debate in this country
that’s been going on for
i don’t know well i guess a century um
and it’s also a hotly contested debate
the liberty movement within the
libertarian party there are still a good
number of libertarians who uh who
believe that the death penalty is is a
good thing even if it’s being you know
poorly used now or if it’s being too
broadly used that at least for the most
extreme that’s what i hear a lot for the
most extreme cases uh it should still be
used before we get into some of the
specifics about the death penalty and
how it ends up actually working what is
your response to someone who says for
example and and you know i guess we’ll
start with the hard questions first um i
know you’ve heard it a million times on
twitter which is a cesspool um
but what about and they’ll give an
example of a mass murderer who you know
a mass rapist and you know like the
worst examples you can give or some like
you know like what about hitler or you
know what about someone like that what
is your response when people say that
when someone say what about this you
know absolute monster of a person who
killed you know hundreds or thousands of
sure so um
you know the goal of the research for me
and like my all of my work as a
journalist is not really about sort of
deciding uh the ultimate moral
good right the ultimate best answer to a
question it’s about showing the system
as it actually works in the real world
so uh the death penalty you know as a
punishment one can debate like whether
it’s moral or just for a society to
execute somebody but that’s a sort of
separate question from
can we as a society develop a system
that actually uh
decides who is the worst of the worst
and makes that decision in a consistent
way that makes sense right so we may all
agree that hitler uh deserved to be
executed but in real terms hitler does
not come up every day in the american
criminal justice system you know there’s
probably uh there’s more than ten
thousand murders every year some years
there’s as much as fifteen or twenty
thousand and uh the vast majority of
those murders are not carried out by a
ted bundy or
a uh adolf hitler right they’re carried
out by
someone who is maybe killed for the
first time in their life where they’ve
killed a couple of people because there
was a bank robbery that went wrong or
they kill
their partner in a domestic violence
situation i mean the vast vast majority
of murders are not these sort of quote
worst of the worst uh you then do have
people like uh i don’t know dylan roof
comes up a lot in the contemporary
american context he’s a very famous
federal death row prisoner another
example is maybe uh tsarnaev the boston
marathon bombing defendant right and
these are cases where one person was
pretty much indisputably involved in a
really heinous crime that involved lots
and lots of victims and uh
but those cases are so rare that they’re
not really a meaningful way of debating
the death penalty because
they come up you know if everybody
agrees let’s just pretend that everybody
agreed that dylan roof deserved the
death penalty well there were you know x
number of victims in that case what if
there were only five victims or two
victims what if there was only one
victim when we decided to hate crime
that’s a decision that has to get made
of whether an individual person deserves
the death penalty and it’s a decision
that’s made uh
by district attorneys who are you know
prosecutors that we elect at the county
and then those
prosecutors ask a jury of 12 citizens
does this person deserve the death
penalty right and uh the citizens have
to to make that decision and they don’t
make it in a necessarily very consistent
way or a way that would seem consistent
after the fact because they’re just
looking at the case in front of them and
so you zoom out and it turns out that
whether you get the death penalty
doesn’t really have much to do with
whether you’re the worst of the worst it
has to do with
i mean to put it really bluntly whether
you live in texas or not even that
whether you live in a very specific you
know county or city in texas that really
wants to keep pursuing the death penalty
a lot of cities like austin or houston
don’t anymore
and if you commit the exact same murder
you know five miles away in a different
county uh you’re not gonna get the death
penalty or if you commit the same murder
in colorado or virginia or california uh
you’re not gonna get executed and uh so
the system that we have is actually much
more messy than these sort of extreme
examples would suggest and i feel like i
often you know it may seem like i’m
skirting around the issue but i really
think that again a moral question of
whether we should have the death penalty
at a certain point starts to feel a
little bit like in the clouds or
meaningless because it is so far away
from the actual system that we have had
uh several centuries now but really
the exact system we have is about 50
years old and we’ve seen kind of over
and over again that it fails to do a
good job of
picking who’s really the worst of the
worst of making sure that the people who
do get the death penalty are not
disproportionately black or latino that
or poor right that you know you could be
adolf hitler but you have the world’s
best lawyer and so uh you’re not you can
afford that lawyer and so you’re
probably not going to get the death
penalty there’s just all these other
factors that sort of distort and uh mess
with this kind of pure
philosophical abstract debate
right if everyone was either a good
person or dylann roof then these
questions would be a lot easier um
because i’ve been asked that you know
what about dylann roof i live in south
carolina um i actually went to the
mother emanuel church a
matter of a few days after the shooting
happened i happened that i was already
going to be in town and i mean that
that’s how close i i am to that and
everything that happened and i get asked
that a lot what about dylan roof and i
honestly say you know
dylan roof
i’m not going i’m not going to lose a
lot of sleep over the fact that dylan
roof is almost assuredly going to be
executed the problem isn’t is that
dylann roof is an outlier both in terms
of the number of people he killed and
probably more importantly to the
question of of the death penalty
how certain we are that he did it
right he admits that he did it every bit
of evidence suggests he did it there’s
no reason to think anyone else did it or
that anyone else was even involved in
doing it this was as clear-cut as it
possibly gets whereas the vast majority
of cases in general but especially
murder cases are much more murky in
terms of who actually did it there was a
study that was done it was published in
the stanford law review
back in the 80s and 88
and it documented
350 capital convictions where it was
later proven that the convict had not
actually committed that crime is there a
i know there’s not obviously an exam
exact number but is there like a uh a
i guess
ballpark figure as to
how many people have been convicted in a
capital case and then later proven to
either not have done it or at least for
some conditions of the evidence or the
trial uh you know being murky to be
sufficient to to you know knock them
back to life imprisonment imprisonment
or to set them free do we do we have
like a ballpark number of how many times
uh capital punishment has been
incorrectly used
uh we don’t know for sure because uh
any given case it’s very very hard to
prove that an innocent person was
executed it’s very hard to prove a
negative sometimes right like uh and and
when somebody’s executed by and large
the system sort of moves on the lawyers
for that person who may feel that they
were innocent and fought to the very end
kind of
you know have they often have a
statement like i’m gonna pray for the
the dead but fight like alfred the
living i’m gonna move on to the next
case so
uh we don’t always have a very good
backwards way of looking at who is
innocent and guilty uh that said there
have been a handful of uh high-profile
examples um in the book uh i in the book
that i wrote about the death penalty let
the lord sort them i
learned about a case there was a it was
doing an interview with the defense
attorney about her early days of her
career she was still a law student in
the early 90s and she said have i ever
told you the eddie ellis story and i
said no it’s the eddie ella story i’ve
never heard of that
and she goes into this whole account of
how a man was about to be executed in
texas this was in 1993 and they received
a tip at her law office that someone
else had confessed to this crime and
that that person was dead but there was
somehow proof that he’d confessed uh
that his his uh widow still held on to
and so this woman flies to houston from
austin and she shows up at an apartment
complex in the middle of houston finds
this woman and the woman says yes you
know he did write a note saying that he
had committed the crime this other man
who’s not on death row
but it’s in my storage unit he was in
the hospital it’s amid all these like
mildewy papers uh from the hospital so
they go they dig through all of these
papers they find it and it’s literally
this other man confessing to a crime
that that somebody’s about to be
executed for uh and
um they bring this and the judges say
nope doesn’t matter we we don’t want to
look at this evidence and uh we think
maybe this is fraudulent and uh we don’t
buy it they even had to get a
handwriting expert to testify like this
is really the same guy’s handwriting
still didn’t move the courts and this
guy was executed and to me what’s
shocking about that story is that there
was pretty clearly a a strong potential
for an innocent person having been
executed but the fact that i just heard
that story because i was hours into an
interview with the defense lawyer saying
like i’m gonna just go tell you a random
war story from my past i googled this
case there was no indication of these
innocence claims you know anywhere easy
to find on the internet the media had
sort of totally ignored it at the time
right and um it just suggested to me
like how many cases do we not know about
right where it seems from the newspaper
articles oh this person is absolutely
guilty or absolutely
let’s say even if they’re guilty not
suffering from schizophrenia or some
really severe mental illness that sort
of means they didn’t know what they were
uh we think we have the full picture
because we have what we have in a
newspaper article but often there’s a
whole sort of ocean of things we don’t
and uh it takes a lot of investigative
work to really nail down the innocent
and the guilty in these cases
so that anecdote was really kind of
shook me uh and i
then found that there was a wide range
of estimates of how many innocent people
have been executed you’ll see you know
estimates at the really conservative end
of like 0.001
uh but still acknowledging that it
happens all the way up to something more
like four percent
um another figure that i think kind of
helps me wrap my brain around it and is
really compelling is that um
for every
nine executions there’s been one
innocent person exonerated from death
right so there’s a really high rate of
people who are proven innocent while on
death row and kind of but for them
having a really good lawyer or new
evidence coming out later they might
have been executed and they were on the
path towards execution so
um you know i can go on all day about
individual cases where i think there’s
pretty compelling evidence that innocent
people have been executed uh people also
how much of a risk are we as a country
willing to take or how many innocent
people is it okay to execute to maintain
the system and those are you know
debates i think worth having uh but i do
think it’s sort of at this point really
disingenuous to try to argue that we’ve
never executed an innocent person i
think there’s just too many cases where
you know it’s 99
likely that they were innocent there’s
enough cases like that that we can be
pretty certain that it’s happened and
happen perhaps many times
and if it’s you know a perfect and
if it has actually happened uh even just
once or twice that should be enough to
put them on life in prison uh
instead because if someone’s in prison
for life and then it turns out they
didn’t do it
they still lost all those years but you
know they can be let free they can there
can be a settlement they can get money
they can something you know something
there can be an apology as opposed to if
someone’s executed not only is there no
way to give them their life back
but the likelihood of government being
willing to admit that they killed
someone at incorrectly at or killed
someone that should not have been
executed uh that didn’t commit the crime
uh as opposed to saying oh you know we
we we convicted this person uh but we’re
gonna let him out now oh you know what
what great news they get to you know go
free after however many years of being
in prison unjustly that’s a lot less
likely to happen and you know i i
recently had someone say to me you know
name just one person that was executed
that you know we know didn’t do it and i
said well uh nate forest was executed
earlier this year and not only do we
know he didn’t do it the prosecution
said he didn’t do it no one ever
disputed that he didn’t do it uh but
they said that he was a part of it and
the only evidence that they
provided to suggest that he was a part
of this conspiracy conspiracy to kill a
bunch of police officers was that he had
sworn at some police officers earlier
that day that was the entire the entire
case hinged on that and really what it
hinged on and this goes back to what you
were saying about how this has far more
to do with the you know uh political
considerations of the jurors making this
decision often
the reason that they executed him was
because they were so angry at the fact
that four officers had been murdered
there were three three officers had been
killed and another one another one shot
and hospitalized that someone had to die
for it and they already had the person
uh who was actually who ended up being
executed who actually killed them but
they needed someone that you know they
needed blood they wanted people to die
and so nate who was the one who was
assaulted by the officers when they were
shot they just threw him into it as well
and he literally died after at you know
years i think over a decade of people
trying to get him uh set free or at the
very least taken off of death row
because he literally didn’t ever kill
anyone his crime was being assaulted by
cops right before they were shot by some
by someone else um that’s a perfect
example of how the death penalty is is
much more commonly used than for example
a dylan roof case or something like that
yeah there’s a case that i find really
compelling in texas right now of a guy
named marvin lewis guy who is in jail
currently facing a death penalty trial
and um
his case uh
was a no knock raid right where the cops
burst into his apartment and he didn’t
he claims i believe that he didn’t know
who it was and he started firing right
and this is texas where that’s not an
uncommon thing to do
and uh he ended up
shooting hitting and killing a police
officer and as a result of that is
facing a death sentence um
for what he claims is self-defense and
right this is sort of practically i mean
there’s fewer and fewer death sentences
every year but what i’m seeing is that
the ones that do get handed out are
not it’s not like it’s distilling to the
worst of the worst over time it’s not
like we’re sort of getting fewer and
fewer cases and so more of those left
are the dylan roofs or tsarnaevs uh
they’re cases like this one where it’s a
kind of random happenstance of there’s a
lot of you know local social anger uh
there’s a district attorney a prosecutor
who um
has kind of made their career on being
tough on crime and doesn’t want to back
and uh all the judges uh and prosecutors
in these state courts are
uh by and large elected and there’s just
a lot of political incentive for them to
kind of um
uh uh
honor that kind of bloodlust of the
society as opposed to kind of making um
a deliberate and careful decision about
which cases really are the worst of the
yeah i i i think a good way to put it is
there are probably people out there who
deserve to die i think government are
the least the last group of people that
i trust to make that that just that
qualification of who is it that deserves
to die and who isn’t um
another argument and it’s it’s hard to
do this to have this conversation
without focusing on the arguments in
favor of it because ultimately we’re not
just having a discussion here we’re
engaged in a debate and i’m on your side
on this debate we’re engaged in a debate
about whether or not the government
should have the power to take someone
who is already in custody and say no you
need to die for whatever the crime is um
and so it’s hard to not do it in that in
that case we often hear a common refrain
that i hear is
well the taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay
for a murderer to live off of them for
free for you know 20 30 40 however many
years until they die you know it’s much
better it’s much better for the taxpayer
for these you know assuming again that
they’re all murderers for these filthy
murderers uh to you know to die and uh
and you know meet their justice
immediately you know the the 25 solution
or whatever um
is it actually effective from a cost
standpoint like what what is the actual
truth regarding the cost of the average
death penalty uh trial
conviction phase appeal fit you know
from from being indicted on a capital
case to when they’re executed to being
indicted on a a life in prison case and
dying in prison what is the difference
in cost there is there a cost savings
there yeah that’s a good that’s a great
question and i should say like i don’t
see my kind of public role as being pro
or anti-death penalty um you know i kind
of abide by a kind of very like
traditional old-school i think
journalistic approach that says like the
point here isn’t to advocate one way or
another it’s to open everybody’s eyes
and sort of like make give people the
tools to make better decisions based on
actual facts as opposed to assumptions
and um cost is actual journalism
i mean it’s and it sounds real i think
when people say actual journalism they
hold it up as this uh sort of almost
like sacred thing or or they or they
hate on it as this sort of um you know
voodoo where you’re making stuff up uh
regardless of where you fall i mean it’s
really i also feel like i’m always on a
mission to kind of demystify it i mean
all actual journalism means is really
calling people really asking government
agencies for documents um really you
know spending the time reading those
documents that are thousands of pages
and finding the people that are hard to
find and just sort of like doing the
labor so the reader the average member
of the public who doesn’t have hundreds
of hours to spend on the death penalty
or whatever else can um
trust that somebody else is out there
doing all this labor and kind of
distilling what you need to know and
clarifying what can be very murky
so cost is a great example of something
that’s really murky there’s a lot of
and the assumptions tend to be
very wrong and that’s not just because
people are malicious or lying it’s
because i think there’s an intuitive
sense that surely it’s cheaper to
execute somebody than it is to put them
in prison forever
right it is not
uh it costs uh tens of thousands of
dollars to hold somebody in a prison for
a year it’s an expensive thing to do
uh you have to feed them as they get
older you have to pay for their medical
care uh
and the cost of that can vary a lot by
state it can vary a lot by um
i mean to be really kind of frank how
old they get and what kinds of medical
problems they have because taxpayers are
on the dime if they get
cancer or something
to execute somebody and take them
through the entirety of the appeals
process is almost always more and in
some cases it’s millions of dollars more
and the reason for that is because um we
have decided as a legal system as a
country people who are going to face the
death penalty deserve a lawyer and they
deserve to have their cases fought and
we may say oh well it’s not worth
spending that much money on a lawyer but
it’s the defense lawyer that’s going to
figure out if this person is innocent
and make that case in court and make it
well right and it’s not a cheap or easy
thing to do i mean i’m thinking of a a
case um
a pretty famous texas case of somebody
who appeared innocent and was executed
uh it was a man named cameron todd
willingham and uh the story of that case
is that um his house caught on fire he
had i think two very young daughters and
they died in the blaze and um the state
argued that he set the fire
intentionally his lawyers uh argued up
until the very last minute and then even
after he was executed that no it was
actually an accidental fire and
in order to puzzle out whether it was an
accidental fire or intentionally set you
need fire experts and fire experts you
know aren’t don’t work for free and and
uh you it costs hundreds of dollars an
hour to have those experts to have let’s
say psychological experts sort of figure
out whether this man is uh faking a
mental illness or he’s really mentally
ill to assess whether somebody has an
intellectual disability and is actually
functioning with an iq of 50 which
right or wrong whether you think it’s
right or wrong the the supreme court has
said it violates the constitution to
execute somebody with an intellectual
disability so
you know it costs a ton of money for
experts and for lawyers at every stage
of the case and these appeals go on for
years and years and years but even at
the front end it costs millions of
dollars and it’s even gotten to the
prosecutors particularly in smaller
towns particularly maybe with a more
bent to them who really care about
fiscal responsibility uh for their
community have said
i still maybe morally support the death
penalty but i’m not gonna seek it
anymore because
we think there are better ways to spend
our money
a really dramatic example of this was uh
jasper texas which is really a tiny town
in texas that is famous because there
what is essentially a modern-day
lynching that happened there um in the
late 90s
early 2000s it was a man named james
byrd who was killed by three white men
who were openly uh white supremacist
uh three men went on trial two of them
faced the death penalty and it cost so
much money that jess for texas had to
raise its tax rate and so everybody in
the town was paying like i don’t
remember the exact figure but a lot more
money in taxes every year
just to pay for this
trial and
one of the county commissioners said
honestly a death penalty trial is
equivalent to a flood or a tornado that
wipes out roads and bridges and we as
the government have to come in and pay
for that with taxpayer money and you
increasingly see prosecutors say
uh like i said before
whatever i still support the death
penalty but like my community needs
roads and bridges more than it needs to
execute this one guy for this one murder
uh let’s let
the state pay for you know that’s not
the entire state of texas like this is
another actual important point that’s
very wonky in the weeds but very
when somebody spends the rest of their
life in prison
that is a cost shared by millions and
millions of texas taxpayers when
somebody faces trial for the death
penalty that’s the financial
responsibility of the county which may
only have 50 000 people in it and so
that’s millions of dollars that is
falling on this time directly those
taxpayers wow okay
that’s interesting so and the thing is
so you’ve got this much more cost in not
just the trial but there’s also
additional cost in
uh death row housing housing of the or
uh i guess caging of the of the of the
inmate as opposed to life in prison life
in prison they’re a maximum security
prison in death row there are actually
more corrections officers than there are
death row inmates or there’s almost like
a one-to-one ratio in some cases and so
that’s more expensive and they have to
have a certain period of time of appeals
that they can appeal it so the average
and usually it’s like 20 to 30 years
before someone’s actually executed for
the crime they committed typically yeah
yeah it ranges a lot and i don’t
remember the average off the top of my
head but it can range anywhere from 10
years to i’ve heard of cases where it
took 30 or 40 years for the person to be
executed and there’s appeals and lawyers
that are getting paid that entire time
but also
um death throws i don’t know the exact
cost but they tend to be more expensive
because they tend to be higher security
they’re almost always totally solitary
those restrictions cost a lot of money
to implement
there have been studies of
people who used to be on death row and
then go into the general population
let’s say because their cases are
returned in a court or something and
those people uh generally according to
some of the scholarship don’t turn out
to be more violent right there’s often
an argument that people need to be on
death row and executed because they’re
going to be dangerous in the future in
fact texas has this
particular quirk to its laws where in
order to get the death penalty the jury
has to decide they have to basically
predict the future and say we think this
person is going to be dangerous
uh going forward if we don’t execute
but the data to the extent it exists has
suggested that um most people who get
the death penalty aren’t actually
dangerous in the future because
um from you know the kind of case
studies we can find of people who ended
up in the general population they don’t
go on to assault other prisoners or
corrections officers um most people just
in the world
become less violent as they get older
right like when you hear about uh a bar
fight it’s seldom between 60 year old
men right it’s between
20 20 year olds and uh there’s a kind of
aging out of violence that tends to
happen so the longer people are in
prison the more violence is really just
not that big a part of their lives or
what they do
it’s interesting and
so even in the midst of the additional
of because part of a big part of why
there’s more cost to the cost of death
row or or capital punishment is as you
said because the the burden of proof is
is a little bit higher in the amount of
resources that are put into proving that
because it’s irreversible once you kill
someone right so it’s not like in the
old days where they just bring them in
and someone goes yeah they did it and
they go okay they did it and they go and
hang them the next day it there has to
be years of of uh
of appeals there has to be much more
resources put into proving that this is
a suitable person to be executed like
you mentioned the iq stuff and we can
talk about race norming of iqs in a bit
as well uh but uh you know all of these
things and yet we still see anywhere
from you know a fraction of a percent to
as high as four or five percent that are
being wrongfully convicted and executed
or wrongfully convicted and almost
executed which means that the only way
you could lower those costs by having
them in death row for less time and
having less resources being put into
their defense during the trial defense
and prosecution during the trial all
that’s going to do is exponentially
increase the number of wrongful
convictions and executions so the so the
there is no way to make this fiscally
responsible or fiscally conservative
make this cost less than imprisonment
there’s no way to do it there’s no way
to make it cheap other than to
ensure that you know thousands of people
are being uh or at least hundreds of
people or at least a large percentage of
the people being convicted are straight
up just being railroaded and executed uh
without you know having actually
committed the crime so there is no from
a fiscal standpoint there’s no upside
conversation there now what about
deterrence because that’s the other
thing we hear is well even if these
other things are happening even if it
costs too much uh even if it uh you know
there are occasionally some you know
broken eggs for this omelet we have here
we still need the omelet because if it
wasn’t for the death penalty maurice the
reality is that there’d be way more
murders out there is there any evidence
to suggest that this actually deters
crime or certainly at least deters
yeah i um
a few years ago was asked to go on fox
news and talk to a prosecutor about the
death penalty and uh he confronted me
with this question about deterrence and
i said well to be honest i’ve never
interviewed somebody who was considering
committing a murder before they did it
right and and about what was going on in
their mind it’s not a it’s not a kind of
interview we can do very often and i
think um we should sort of exercise i
did not say this because uh i was my
blood pressure was too high to think of
it but uh
you know i think
we have to exercise some humility about
what we can know about the decisions
people make when um right they commit
murder but to the extent we can measure
something like deterrence uh there has
not been ever
scholarly proof that a sort of wide
number of scholars can agree on um and
peer review that suggests that the death
penalty deters crime and part of how you
can measure that is you can say well do
places with the death penalty have fewer
murders right and the answer to that
tends to be no and then it sometimes
becomes a circular argument where people
come back and say well that’s precisely
why we need the death penalty because
texas has more murders right but then
you’re kind of speaking out of both
sides of your mouth
deterrence is also uh it’s compelling
but we know that the vast majority of
people who commit murder do it uh in the
kind of heat of the moment when they
don’t necessarily intend to commit the
murder when they begin doing whatever it
is they’re doing whether it’s a fight
whether it’s a robbery uh i mean we can
say if somebody goes into a a liquor
store with a gun um weak it stands to
reason uh that they
should assume that maybe someone’s gonna
die maybe someone’s gonna get killed
right but i think if you ask that person
ahead of time uh are you gonna go murder
somebody to rob the sucker store they’re
like no the gun is just to scare the
person right i mean we’ve all seen
movies we can imagine the kind of
psychology there
and uh
never once has any have i ever heard an
anecdote of someone in prison now saying
yeah i really thought about the death
penalty before i committed a crime like
i’ve just never heard that and i’ve
interviewed dozens of prisoners over the
course of a decade and i’ve never heard
it so that there might be prisoners who
admit to being deterred by the death
that you know they they uh uh
i mean because most people who are in
prison maybe didn’t um have been in and
out of trouble with the law for many
years so there’s plenty of examples of
people who might be talking about
different anecdotes in their life i’ve
just never heard an anecdote like that
which makes me suspicious of these
claims that we can deter crime by having
the death penalty well like you said the
murder rates in areas that have the
death penalty versus ones that don’t
don’t support that so that would be a
good way to measure it and honestly
is there someone out there that goes man
if i murder that person i could be
executed i’m not gonna do it sure maybe
but if that’s the case i would imagine
that same person if there wasn’t a death
penalty would say well if i murder this
person i’m gonna have to spend the rest
of my life in prison
that’s worth it let’s do it i’m gonna go
ahead and murder this person like the
the the fact that there would be any if
punishment is a deterrence then i would
imagine uh we i think it’s safe to to to
speculate anyway that someone who would
be who would literally commit murder
were it not for the death penalty would
also probably not commit murder because
they don’t want to spend their rest of
their lives in prison like if they’re if
they have that kind of a
a forward thought process in terms of
deciding whether or not to off another
human being i would imagine that just
any level of high punishment like you
know life imprisonment or even a long
time a long time in prison would
probably be enough to deter such a
reasonable person who probably
come to think of it probably isn’t
thinking much about murdering people if
they’re like they’re if they’re thinking
that far ahead they’re probably not
thinking yeah i need to murder this guy
i have also heard the claim uh and i
i’ve heard it said that uh somebody
considering whether to commit murder may
be more likely to kill somebody because
they are worried about them being a
against them right and so the worse the
punishment is the more incentive there
is to kill somebody who could
potentially be a witness um which is
kind of an abstract way of talking about
it and i also don’t have you know a
bunch of interview material to back to
back it up um but i’ve heard that
argument made and it’s compelling to me
so yeah i mean the the uh
deterrence is a bit of a red herring and
it tends to be one of the kind of major
uh defenses of the death penalty but i
think another you know just
grand point about the united states
that’s worth making in this context is
uh over the last 20 years the number of
death tendencies and executions have
dropped uh hugely i mean compared to
where they were 20 years ago and the
number of murders has not like zoomed up
to account for it right it’s not like
there’s been like a inverse relationship
between the two um death sentences and
executions have gone down and so have
yeah it’s yeah i’ve not seen any
evidence and you’re right that’s an
actually an excellent point that the
fact that
there is a harsher punishment could
actually lead someone in that moment to
go i can’t do time for this i’m going to
kill this you know the only witness to
this that actually that sounds if we’re
talking speculation of of anecdotes that
we don’t even know exist or or that
there there might be an existence of
that’s far more compelling to me than
someone going you know what i’d kill you
right now but then they’d kill me back i
just i don’t see i don’t see that but
but if they put me in jail for the rest
of my life um that’s worth it i’m gonna
kill you i i don’t i don’t i don’t see
that so um and like you said then
there’s the circular thing of when you
tell them that there’s more murderers
they go well that’s proof that we need
the death penalty and it’s like no
you’ve that’s proof that it doesn’t
work it’s you that’s literally why we’re
saying that doesn’t work um yeah it’s
i’ll just say one more point on that
which is um that
uh you made the point that people aren’t
really thinking that far ahead when they
commit murder and by and large you’re
very right i mean the the vast majority
of people on death row have some
combination of
um intellectual disability or mental
illness but also even if not uh severe
trauma in their life you know childhood
trauma on par with having served in a
combat zone in the military um
i mean one of the people who was
executed under the trump administration
um had been sexually assaulted as a
child by her step parents who had been
enlisted other adults to sexually
assault her i mean the the level of
trauma is so severe that i think
we all are
a little bit uh
i think that we’re not exercising enough
humility when we try to put ourselves in
the mind of what a potential murderer
thinks because the trauma level in these
people’s brains is so intense that it’s
really hard to put your your put
yourself in their shoes
right which
which is why we’re not in their shoes
right like it’s it is hard to picture
what that’s like and of course that
doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t have
been punished right you can’t say well
this terrible thing happened to you
therefore you should be able to do but
but that doesn’t it it does suggest that
maybe killing her was the wrong route
like yes there’s a way to punish her
there’s a way to make sure that you know
she’s not posing a threat to anyone else
and we could you know that that’s a
whole conversation about restorative
justice it’s actually interesting to me
that a lot of the people who will talk
about deterrence and making sure there
isn’t more crime if you talk about these
studies that show that restorative forms
of justice instead of using retribution
actually lead to there being less crime
and less re-offense now suddenly they
don’t want to have the conversation
about preventing future crimes because
it it seems like the the
desire to
you know off someone that they think is
unfit to exist is the real reason and
they’re just kind of using all these
other things as a as a as an excuse for
it is there in fact that’s actually a
how much of this and i mean i know there
may not be a study on this but just sort
of based on the the conversations you’ve
had how much of this is just
people using the death penalty as sort
of a i guess a litmus test for their
belief that there are just
maybe not even entire groups but
certainly individuals who just need to
die and that you know and that even if
these aren’t those individuals there at
least should be a system of of deciding
who should just who should be dead
yeah i mean one way to talk about that
is uh i read dozens of trial transcripts
for this book um of people who are
facing the death penalty um
often i was especially interested in the
speeches the opening and closing
statements that prosecutors and defense
lawyers would make at the beginning and
in the end of the trial they really kind
of make their pitch to the jury of why
does this person deserve to to die
uh the word that keep kept showing up
was evil right that prosecutors saw um
these people who committed crimes as
evil and their crime they would also use
the word senseless uh
but there was definitely a sense that
people who were um facing the death
penalty and whose crimes were really
hard to explain uh must be you know
activated by evil and we don’t typically
think of um courtrooms as being a venue
for this sort of very judeo christian
talk of good and evil uh but they really
um and the other thing i would see in
these child transcripts was a lot of
what i would consider from racially
coded language so you
occasionally you know a prosecutor would
use the n-word occasionally an expert
witness would say well black people are
just dangerous
but far more often you would hear or you
would see in the transcript a prosecutor
every night when you walk around on the
streets aren’t you afraid of them those
people who make it so that you can’t go
to bed and put your head on the pillow
and feel safe in your own home
they’re out to get you and yes you could
say well they’re just talking about
serial killers they’re talking about
murderers um they’re talking about
but in some of these contexts especially
in like a southern courtroom you know
only 50 years after there were lynchings
in the courthouse square the language of
fear and evil
feels like it is a kind of a way of
talking about race without talking about
it right without tripping the wire of
somebody saying oh well that
prosecutor’s a racist uh
um i i saw so much of that in these
trial transcripts and it’s hard to
measure and it’s to a certain extent by
nature kind of qualitative and and uh
analytical but it’s there for sure
well and there’s a level of deniability
like you said they’re like well i was
just i meant murderers and and even if
they did mean murderers there is an
otherization happening there right like
there’s this this isn’t a person who did
something bad and we have to figure out
what their punishment is this is the
reason you exist in fear you know this
thing that is you know that is is the
reason that you’re scared to sleep at
night we have to kill them and and you
know even if even if they truly don’t
mean it from a racial aspect and we’re
going to talk about that
next actually um there’s definitely an a
dehumanization of the person in front of
them whether you think whatever
punishment this person should should
be subjected to as a result of what they
any attempt to dehumanize and otherize
people is the first step in making their
punishment exponentially worse than what
we would have otherwise stomached
because we’re no longer talking about a
person we’re talking about scum we’re
talking about a plague on our planet
that needs to be dealt with so according
to the aclu uh there’s a just over 3 300
people that are on uh death row today in
in the u.s almost all of them virtually
all of them are poor
a significant number of them are what we
would consider to be mentally disabled
uh nearly half more than 40 of them are
black um and putting putting that in
perspective 13 of the population
actually 12 percent of the population is
black so they’re being
disproportionately represented in death
row by a nearly four to one margin um
and uh a disproportionately high number
are native american latino and and asian
why do you think
you know it’s easy i i i will admit that
my first thought there when i see that
there’s a higher percentage of black
latin native american and asian people
there that at least part of that is that
those are are people that are also
disproportionately more likely to be
poor and it seems like the death penalty
is almost almost always accepting maybe
some high profile cases almost always
used against poor people um
is there a a do you believe or do you
see evidence to suggest that there is an
actual like a racist reason for why
they’re being uh misrepresented past
just the the i guess the racial element
that’s based in why so many are poor to
begin with is is this
i guess but why why do you believe that
minorities are so disproportionately
sentenced to the death penalty
it’s a good question and it’s a
complicated one right uh you can sort of
tell a historical story about how the
death penalty uh is kind of the cousin
or the the the successor to the
lynchings the extrajudicial murders that
we carried out as a country in the early
20th and 19th century
uh and you can talk about the um
you know racial racially coded language
that prosecutors and judges often use um
there’s also tactics uh in a lot of
states where
prosecutors have become very good at um
keeping black
citizens off of juries so that um people
are not really being judged by juries of
their peers they’re being judged by um
like white juries that are more likely
to otherwise them
uh there’s also an interesting element
so that the times that there have been
studies of um you know trying to control
for every factor other than race in the
decisions of jurors and prosecutors and
they have found often that there’s a bit
of a you know bump where you’re just a
little more likely to get the death
penalty if you are black however uh if
your victim is a white woman you are way
more likely to get the death penalty
regardless of whether you are white or
black so there are racial disparities
that play out in these complicated ways
that are not just about the race of the
uh they’re also about sort of
which victims we think deserve this kind
of justice or deserve more kind of
justice and and i think that uh
one reason why people have been willing
to look past the racial disparities in
the death penalty and also the um
uh uh the fact that it’s big government
i think one reason why a lot of
conservatives who tend to be very
concerned about big government are okay
with government doing the biggest thing
of all which is taking its own citizens
is because they don’t see it as the
government they see it as a service to
victims right that that uh there’s this
family and their daughter was murdered
and uh we want
we want to as a society produce justice
for them and prosecutors police judges
and jurors are all in service of that
grieving family and we tend to have more
sympathy when those people are white
right so if you murder someone who’s
black you’re maybe less likely to get
the death penalty
um but the last thing i would say about
why they are so overrepresented on why
minorities are overrepresented on death
row and they’re also over-represented um
murders in general right like there’s
just more crime in minority uh
communities and um and more victims in
minority communities and part of this is
because of all manner of other racial
disparities in our country in terms of
mental health in terms of how we dole
out mental health in terms of how we
uh deal with poverty in terms of how we
deal with the trauma that people
experience as a result of the kind of
mixture of factors of being poor of
being more susceptible
because of their economic situation to
substance abuse to
all kinds of other struggles that lead
to more violence in their lives right
more domestic abuse all of these
dysfunctions are societal dysfunctions
and and they are the product of a
failure to invest in
uh as a country in in these communities
and that means that there’s more crime
in these communities and that means that
there’s more people on imprisonment on
death row from them because um i mean
the way i described it just now is a
little bit heady but
if you are poor and you go to prison and
you are subjected let’s say let’s just
talk about some like sort of abstract
but um um
like an example from real life right
uh let’s say you have two 18 year olds
one white and one black the the black
person is more likely to be poor and
they’re more likely to fewer educational
and um social resources
uh the white kid is more likely to have
gone to a good school and have uh some
some money in their in their bank and
and their family owned some property
both go to prison at 18 because of
something really minor let’s say they
had a joint right
and they both go to prison and they’re
both uh
viciously beat up in prison they suffer
horrible horrible violence right
um they then come out of prison and
because of that wealth that’s in the
white community that white uh kid is
more likely to come out and get the
kinds of help that will keep him from
falling into a kind of cycle of violence
and poverty and dysfunction that will
get him back to prison right um he may
be will be treated as though he made a
mistake when he was a kid and he’s been
traumatized by his experience in prison
so like let’s help him let’s get him
therapy etc the black young man is going
to come out and
have less a family with less money um
less of an ability to get into high
school or college and is more likely to
get set down this path where the only
way to make ends meet is perhaps to uh
to engage in more illegal activities and
and those become a slippery slope
towards more violence so it’s not
that people wake up one day and they say
i’m evil i’m more violent it’s that uh
crime doesn’t occur in a vacuum it’s the
product of all these social forces and
the people who suffer more in all other
kinds of ways are also going to suffer
more from crime whether as victims or as
perpetrators like there’s just going to
be more crime in those environments um
because crime is almost like an
indicator of a lack of a community’s um
health and and
and resources
does that make sense i realize i’m
speaking a very heady way but no it it
does because this is
the reason that we see
intergenerational poverty is that when
the and this is now kind of libertarian
speak when the ladders have been removed
and all that’s left is a safety net that
at best just keeps you from dying and
any opportunity that’s in that area has
basically been sucked out and the only
opportunities that are there uh that
don’t involve being some kind of
exponential high performer some kind of
you know be able to be a a you know a
really good athlete or a really good
entertainer or a really good um uh
what’s another one someone who just has
an incredible business acumen and is
able to grow a multi-million dollar
business out of literally nothing you
know for the vast majority of people who
are you know aren’t you know these these
you know diamonds in the rough the one
in a million types um
they don’t really have anything to be
able to get out of that and
even putting aside the financial
aspect of that that if the only real way
to make money is a life of crime um or
or you know some kind of you know
well basically just a life of crime in
one way or another um
also just the the anxiety that exists of
not being able to provide of not being
able to get out of this and of the
resentment that happens there i mean
it’s why poor people tend to victimize
and rob other poor people uh it’s not
just a financial consideration because
then the the logical conclusion would be
that they’d go after rich people but
it’s it’s also the fact that if they
tried to go into that neighborhood and
do that there would be a sufficient uh
deterrent force to be able to actually
stop them from doing it as opposed to
their poorly pleased communities where
police largely exist to raise revenue
from poor people so in the midst of all
of that to now get you know railroaded
through a death penalty case where
either you didn’t do it or you did do it
but if you had been wealthier you would
have been able to fight it and get it
plead down to something else uh or or be
able to successfully fight it in court
uh and at least not get the death row
from it now you’re being re-eroded into
death row that wouldn’t have happened if
you were if you weren’t more poor and
because of all sorts of historical
reasons uh people minorities people of
color ethnic and religious minorities
immigrants and people like that tend to
be poorer so even if it is just a
straight-up financial you know economic
you know classist problem even if there
isn’t a racial aspect which is certainly
in certain places i live in the deep
south there’s a racial aspect at least
here even if that weren’t there now uh
even if they were color blind now
the historical things that have led to
people of color being more likely to be
in poverty are going to
disproportionately affect them on this
so no it’s it’s a
it’s a this is a perfect example of of
like i said government is is the last
group of people that i think should be
deciding who should live or who should
die um they’ve done a really bad job of
that in general i mean we just
this is the same government and i know
it’s it’s obviously being executed
differently but the same organization in
a different department uh just did a
drone strike against a family that they
thought was isis uh and and now this
same from this same larger network of
government we’re now saying well holy
crap i can’t believe they just killed a
family with a drone strike this
organization or this this network of
organizations should definitely be
deciding who amongst us in our community
should be allowed to live or die
yeah i also think that there’s um you
know the government in theory is the
elected officials of all of us but there
are a lot of corrupting influences over
that um whether it’s you know big
business um i’m just thinking of sort of
the way that
we decide as a society which kinds of
deaths should
should should lead to which kinds of
accountability so for example we decide
that if somebody goes into a gas station
and shoots the clerk
they uh have committed a murder and um
they should go to prison for the rest of
their life and maybe even get the death
penalty there’s plenty of um not
recently but in the 90s or plenty of
people are getting the death penalty for
for doing that
um but at the same time if uh um you
know some corporate uh you know
leaders in a boardroom decide to um you
know create the conditions for the
opioid crisis for example and many many
people die as a result of overdoses
uh accountability looks like
some fines maybe some amount of money
that’s like really not going to make
these these leaders lose any sleep but
they’re not going to go to prison for it
and we think justice is is primarily
financial and it’s not about depriving
them of liberty right so we make these
decisions about
uh what a murder is that are in some
ways um subjective and they don’t have
to be what they are right because um
there are plenty of decisions made
in the corporate context that that do
lead to people dying whether in a
hospital or an overdose or whatever uh
and we don’t talk about those the same
way we only think of murder as
interpersonal violence
yeah well because even though the threat
of someone dying in the opioid crisis is
wildly higher than the threat of some
you know evil person coming and
murdering you like it’s it’s not even
comparable and yet
like you said we look at that as a
statistical thing to be handled as a
financial thing even though it’s
basically mass murder um it’s a very
interesting thing that you uh you wrote
your book uh let the lord sort them the
rise and fall of the death penalty uh
that was written or published
about two years ago what did you was
that a sort of a historical timeline of
the death penalty in the uh what what
what were you writing about there what
what was that about yeah um so i started
um i finished it about two years ago but
it came out this past uh january and it
is um
you know i in the book i set up the fact
that the death penalty has been part of
american uh history since the very
beginning but over the last 50 years
there’s really been this uh rise and
fall where it almost disappeared
entirely in the 1960s and then starting
in the 70s 80s 90s the numbers zoomed up
they reached a peak around 99 2000 and
then they’ve been falling ever since and
um that coincided with a big rise in
fallen crime it also coincided with the
rise of uh what we consider the system
of mass incarceration of you know
far more people being in prison uh and
having harsher punishments longer terms
of incarceration than any other society
has really ever
produced so um
that all
is the kind of big historical sort of um
context for what i’m trying to do
but i tell that story
with plenty of you know the relevant
legislative and supreme court battles
but it’s really about individual people
who experienced that and how their lives
were shaped by it so
uh you meet a prosecutor who sent
several men to death row and then
eventually became a judge who started to
question the death penalty you meet a
defense lawyer who committed her whole
life to fighting against the death
penalty and keeping people off death row
and learning different tactics to try to
kind of convince the public uh
successfully to see to to send fewer
people to death row
uh even when it was very unpopular to do
that right this woman has received death
threats uh you meet a guy on death row
you meet um
family members of people who have been
murdered who are sort of debating
amongst themselves like is the death
penalty justice
uh our loved one has been killed were
you know horribly um affected by this
and we have to decide do we want to push
the government to execute that person
um and then you even meet like a member
of a jury who’s basically just like a a
working professional who was living in
houston in the mid-2000s and got tapped
to decide
whether a man lived or died right and
what that was like for him right on the
trauma going through that
because the point of the book is like i
said earlier i want people to understand
the system as it’s really lived as it
really exists in a really kind of
granular practical way and in order to
do that i can’t just stay up in the
clouds talking about supreme court cases
and um congressional hearings right like
i want people to kind of stew in the
murk of the real life stories uh the
real story of the defense lawyer finding
out that her innocent client is about to
be executed and racing against the clock
against a system that’s that’s set up to
uh to to
for her to lose and for her client to
get executed and she has to go and
actually watch the execution right
um i want people to confront that head
on because my my understanding of where
we are at this moment right now in 2021
is that the death penalty
it’s fallen in usage it’s used pretty
rarely but it’s still around and we as a
country have to decide like what are the
next 50 years do we want to kind of keep
going with this experiment do we want to
rev it back up trump wanted us to rev it
back up do we agree with that or do we
think that this has been a mistake and
we should learn from these mistakes and
try to create a more humane uh system so
so that’s the kind of uh conversation i
want to have with the reader by sharing
all these stories about what the death
penalty has really been like over the
last 50 years and that’s good that
you’re doing it as you know
obviously focus having some focus on the
the data and and history behind it but
also telling the stories people connect
with stories obviously you know that
you’re an author but also
many people and i say this is someone
who is not one of these people i look at
a graph and have the emotional
connection to what those rises and falls
look like most people aren’t wired that
way they need to hear the story they
need to know they need to you know
telling the story i can look at you know
this increase or and and that’s probably
i’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a
bad thing but you know there are some a
small minority of people that can look
at a chart of you know wrongful
convictions and at least somewhat at
least in the abstract picture what
emotionally that was doing to all the
people that were involved in that
whereas sometimes people need to
actually hear the story even for me it’s
important to hear that story and that
human that human story behind it so i’m
glad that you wrote it and i i do think
unfortunately as someone who who is an
abolitionist who would like to see an
end to the death penalty at all levels
of government uh i do unfortunately
think it’s a debate that it’s going to
be raging for at least a few more years
so i’m glad that you are contributing as
a journalist to
giving people the the information to be
able to make a decision for themselves
uh i think we should be having it you
know and um
uh uh trump sort of threw it into the
limelight in a way that i didn’t really
expect uh you know there were 13 people
executed under him
and that got a lot of media attention
you know the texas still executes about
a dozen people a year and you don’t hear
about it nearly as much and so i feel
like i and other journalists are just
like kind of beating this drum and
hoping people hear it um because this is
something that our government is doing
in our names so we should at least
understand it and
have more formed opinions about it that
are kind of grounded in the reality
rather than in what we wish were true
right and that’s a lot of this to be is
what especially i say this is someone
that used to support the death penalty
my support for the death penalty was
entirely on what i wanted it to be i
wanted it to be a
very carefully and and um
um and
an indiscriminately applied way of
finding the most dangerous people in our
society and removing them in a way that
saved both victims and the taxpayers and
which i was exposed to all of the
information that it was literally not a
single one of those things it was the
exact opposite of all of those things
that was what led me to uh be to even
question the first place whether
government should do that but at the
very least say well at least at the very
least the way it’s being applied now
that’s wrong but anyway before i let you
go first of all i want to thank you for
coming on you’ve been a fan this has
been a really great discussion um before
i let you go i do want to give you a
chance to give your your last word your
final thoughts uh anything that you
thought we didn’t get a chance to talk
about anything you would like to promote
anything that is upcoming uh pretty much
whatever you want to talk about for
however long you want to talk maurice
shema the floor is yours
uh thank you for that yeah i mean we’ve
talked quite a bit about this book let
the lords with them um and of course you
know i’m an author who wrote this book
and it came out and uh i hope that
anyone who’s interested in this topic is
you know interested in uh going and
purchasing a book so you can do that on
any of the kind of wherever you buy
books if you have a local bookstore it’s
probably on a shelf there or you can get
them to order it uh you can get it on
bookshop.org which supports small
independent bookstores
um and there’s an audio version so if
you just want to listen to it while
you’re jogging that is also an option i
always feel necessary to point out
um i also want to say that
i write continually about the death
penalty and other criminal justice
topics for the marshall project which is
a non-profit news outlet that focuses on
those issues exclusively
i’m working on a big long narrative
piece um that i can’t really talk about
right now but it’s
largely about confessions and why people
confess to crimes and the problems of
when people confess to crimes that you
know they maybe didn’t commit
uh so that’s what’s coming down the pike
for me
the last thing i just want to say about
the death penalty is um
you know i think there’s a lot of cases
you might hear the details of a crime
and think oh my god that person
definitely deserves the death penalty
they deserve to be executed for what
they did there’s no mitigating
circumstances that affect that judgment
of mine um but often you’re only getting
kind of one narrative you’re getting the
narrative from the police and the
prosecutors of what happened
and usually as the years go by defense
go and they figure out why did this
murder happen why did this person commit
this murder
and they uh often find that the
explanation has to do with trauma with
mental health issues um with with issues
that that are not i mean it doesn’t
totally necessarily uh take an
individual person’s fault out of it but
it definitely suggests that uh the
social environment around them played
some role and and is somewhat to blame
and those issues can be fixed and so i
honestly think that the kind of fight
against the death penalty has done a
service to our country beyond
uh the narrow context of the death
penalty by showing us why do murders
happen why do people commit murder i
mean when you hear about a murder you
often think who could do that why would
that happen
and it’s not until the defense lawyers
go and really investigate it that uh
we kind of learn about
why violence happens and so um that’s
the kind of work that i’m hoping to do
more and more of i’ve kind of been
inspired by these defense lawyers to
think about that as a way of approaching
the criminal justice system so it’s not
here’s what we think happened what does
that person deserve it’s
what produced this and what are the
things that we can fix as a society so
that there’s less crime so that there’s
less victims so that there’s less murder
and that’s the kind of work of the
future so uh you can read the work that
i try to do in that vein at the
marshallproject.org or you can go to my
website maurice.com
and again you know if you feel like
buying the book i’d really appreciate it
uh but thank you so much for having me
absolutely thank you for coming on so
the marshallproject.org
maurice shamaw.com
and uh the
let the lord sort them the rise and fall
of the death penalty which was published
in 2019 that is how y’all can find out
more about marie schumann maurice thanks
again for coming on man i really
appreciate it yeah thank you for having
me really appreciate it
well folks i told you that would be good
maurice uh is an incredible expert on
the death penalty and i’m glad that he
was able to join us and i’m glad that
were able to join us and i hope that you
can join us tomorrow which is thursday
when you’re watching this uh tomorrow at
4 p.m i will be in russell kentucky at
407 ferry street and we will be
helping save the russell convalescent
home if you don’t know what i’m talking
about go to the spike cohen social media
and find out what i’m talking about the
city of russell kentucky government has
been trying to use eminent domain to
steal a convalescent home so that they
can bulldoze it and build a parking lot
and we are going there to the russell
convalescent home right there on ferry
street and we are rallying to stop it at
4 pm eastern and then at 6 30 pm we are
walking literally across this little
two-lane street to where the city
government building is and we’re going
to speak at the city council meeting and
we hope that you join us we are going to
try to live stream it uh on my social
media um but uh if you’re if you’re
anywhere near russell kentucky it’s
about an hour and a half from
um it’s about about an hour and a half
to two hours away from cincinnati ohio
columbus ohio and
lexington kentucky and about two and a
half to three hours away from louisville
kentucky so if you live nearby we’d love
to have you come out show support for
the people of russell and for russell
convalescent home uh we’re gonna fight
to try to save this convalescent home uh
so come and join us and then uh thursday
night at eight 8
is the writer’s block where matt wright
will be interviewing randall daniel who
is the chair of the libertarian party of
kentucky i’m not i think he might be
there with us so he may be
interviewing during the city council
meeting so we’ll find out together uh
then on friday uh you can join me in
west fargo north dakota where i will be
campaigning for uh travis bull johnson
who is running for congress you can join
us if you go to bold johnson mn
then you can find out about all the
events i’m going to be out on friday and
saturday we’d love to have you join us
there across western minnesota and parts
of north dakota come on out and meet us
and on friday at 9 30 eastern uh uh
watch noelle and nullik right here on
muddy waters media for cajun and eskimo
from bayou to igloos uh and then join us
back here on monday uh at
eight four forget if it’s seven or eight
join us back here monday night for uh
the mr america the bearded truth uh
jason lyon his guest will be joe garcia
who is the chair of the libertarian
party of north carolina then join us
next tuesday for the money waters of
freedom where matt wright and i parse
through the week’s events like the
chipper little little snow monkeys that
we are i don’t know what a snow monkey
is i hope it’s not racist if that’s
racist we’re not
that’s not we aren’t that
i’ve never i just made that term up so
if that’s a racist term don’t
like the chipper little boys that we are
the chipper
young man that we are
then join me right back here next
wednesday same spike place same spike
time for another fantastic episode of my
fellow americans will i be live i
believe so
but it was great having you here anyway
thank you again thank you so much for
tuning in i’m spike cohen and you
are the power
god bless guys

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