The 1000th Execution

Evidently, reporting the constant drip, drip, drip of casualties from the Iraq War has been so much fun for the American media that they have decided to apply the same water torture technique to propagandizing another favorite cause: death penalty abolition.

Yes, this week we have been treated to a deluge of spontaneous stories marking the fact that the United States will soon execute its 1000th poor, helpless murderer since 1976, the year the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty — after having suspended it foolishly in 1972.

One thousand is, of course, an important milestone, since numbers ending in zero have a magical power upon little minds — and '1000' has three zeroes at its end. Thus, we are all to reflect on the horror we have wrought as a nation. One thousand deaths — and for what? Obviously, we should withdraw from capital punishment immediately.

You can't blame the left for trying to recreate its latest glory, I suppose. The death clock in Iraq has been very effective in creating a sense of despair and the news is what you make it, after all.

But it is interesting that not all milestones seem equally worthy of commemoration. For example, no one marked 1525 this week. That is the minimum number of people that have been murdered by the 999 evil people we have executed since 1976. And that estimate is undoubtedly low, since many of the media—mourned 999 killed more people than those for which we bothered convicting them.

For example, Ted Bundy, important death number 106, was convicted of just 3 murders. His true total is estimated in the dozens. If we assign him only the 28 murders he has confessed to, then the non—magic milestone this week is actually 1553.

Maybe it's because it doesn't end in even a single zero that the 1525 victims figure is ignored? But then the all—important '1000 victims of the executed' milestone has long since passed. We reached that un—marked total sometime around mid—2000, possibly when Texas executed Jessy Carlos San Miguel (important death number 650) for killing four people while robbing a Taco Bell — including a pregnant teenage girl and her 23—year—old cousin.

Or what about 573,553 as a milestone? That is how many murder victims there have been in the United States since 1976. Again, that milestone is inexplicably not being covered by those who can so value 1000 lives — if they are lost on death row. The 500,000 victims mark was also missed back in 2001, even with five zeroes in its favor. As was 400,000 (1995), 300,000 (1991), 200,000 (1986), 100,000 (1981), or even 1000 — reached just three weeks after the court reauthorized capital punishment in the midst of one of the greatest violent crime epidemics in the nation's history —an epidemic that began coincidentally with the modern Left's obsession with the rights of criminals and has eased as the nation has increasingly rejected this movement.

Or how about 400,000? That is a rough estimate of the number of murderers that the nation has had to subdue since 1976. That figure assumes that each murderer killed about 1.5 people. This is likely too conservative an estimate, since most murderers are not as bad as the few that end up on death row, where 1.5 is the average. If one assumes that most non—death row murderers have killed only once, then the number of murderers is closer to 500,000.

In the last 29 years, we have been cursed with 500,000 murderers and yet we have executed only 1000 of them —just one—fifth of one percent. And yet the media would have us believe that America's justice system is harsh. Far from being a state—run killing machine for huge numbers of run—of—the—mill murderers, our capital punishment system is incredibly lenient ——99.8% of murderers are spared its sting.

The only remarkable thing about the 1000th execution is that it didn't occur twenty years ago. If we had applied the death penalty only to the worst 10% of murderers, and allowed 90% to serve only jail time, we could have easily executed 50,000 by now — and still been lenient. One wonders what the effect on the murder rate would be if every potential murderer knew he had a 1 in 10 chance of having his crime visited back upon him.

If the media want to keep a count of something, perhaps they should count the innocent lives lost to murder. Any six weeks of Peace in America are as deadly to Americans as the last three years of War in Iraq. Yet we continue to treat violent crime as a national nuisance to be handled with politically correct gloves.

The media can tolerate huge numbers of deaths when it suits their agenda. And they can whine over the deaths of a statistical handful when that suits the agenda better — even if that handful is composed of extremely evil men, found guilty by a jury of their peers, and judged to be among the worst one—fifth of one percent of all murderers in the country.

One thousand executions? It's a start; but that's about all it is.

Mac Johnson, a medical researcher in Cambridge, MA, is a weekly columnist for Human Events Online.  An archive of his previous work can be viewed  here.