September 10, 2010
Last Night's Execution Of Cal Coburn Brown Will Save 5 To 15 Lives
It has been years since he committed his horrendous crimes, so
of them is in order:
[Holly] Washa had left Ogallala, Neb., three years before her murder believing Seattle was a prime spot
to pursue a career as a flight attendant. She found part-time work as a dispatcher at a Seattle
cable-television company and at a Hickory Farms store in Southcenter mall.
Brown carjacked Washa, 21, at knife point near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on May 23, 1991, and
forced her to drive to a bank to withdraw money. He then held her for 34 hours at a motel where she
was repeatedly raped, robbed, tortured and then slashed to death.
Brown then flew to California, where he was arrested for trying to rape and kill a woman. While
being questioned by Palm Springs police, Brown told them they could find Washa's body in the trunk of her
Oldsmobile in the parking lot of a SeaTac car-rental agency.
Brown had been released from Oregon State Penitentiary just two months earlier despite the protests of a
prosecutor who had helped convict him in 1984 for assaulting a woman.
In all the years he has been on death row, he has shown little remorse for his crimes.
For decades, there has been an academic debate over whether the death penalty deters murders.
Simplifying greatly, you could say that the early part of that debate was dominated by sociologists who found
no deterrent effect, and the latter part has been dominated by economists, who have found that every execution
deters a number of murders, with most studies finding that it deters between 5 and 15 murders. You
can find a list of recent studies here, and a New
York Times article on them
(You can find a dissenting view on the studies
In my opinion, the economists have had the better of the argument, though the very range, 5-15, shows us
that the matter is not settled. I say that, not just because economists tend to be far better
methodologists than sociologists — though they do — but because the conclusion is a
common sense one. If someone threatens our lives, almost all of us behave differently.
But I do not think that the academic question is settled, for reasons I explained in this
(Which is illustrated with an example of a famous killer.)
But you don't need to take my word for it; you can take the considered opinion of economist
Gary Becker, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1992 and has followed the debate, said the
current empirical evidence was "certainly not decisive" because "we just don't get enough variation to be
confident we have isolated a deterrent effect."
But, Mr. Becker added, "the evidence of a variety of types — not simply the quantitative
evidence — has been enough to convince me that capital punishment does deter and is worth using for
the worst sorts of offenses."
That the evidence is "not decisive" does not absolve us from the responsibility to act. If Becker is
right, then the death penalty saves lives, and abandoning it will lead to the loss of more innocents like
Holly Washa. I think trading 1 Cal Coburn Brown for 5 to 15 Holly Washas is a good
exchange. Those who oppose the death penalty are either unwilling to look at the evidence as
Becker has, or willing to accept the death of many Holly Washas in order, as they see it, not to be complicit
in the death of 1 Cal Coburn Brown. (I can understand that position, though I do not share it, but
few who do seem to be willing to go all the way with it, since it implies an absolute commitment to
pacifism. Among other things, it implies that police should not be armed with deadly weapons,
and that we should abandon our armed forces.)
Cross posted at
Jim Miller on Politics.
(You can make a pragmatic argument against the death penalty by saying that opponents have made death
penalty fights so expensive that we would be better off using the money to reduce murders in other ways.
I haven't seen such an argument, with actual numbers, but would be willing to look at it. I
might still reject it, because it would allow a minority, using guerrilla tactics in our legal system, to over-rule
I saw two of the stories on this execution on our local TV stations. Neither story mentioned the
possible deterrent effect of the execution. The story on channel 13,
KCPQ, was so one-sided as to be more of an
anti-capital-punishment editorial than a story. This kind of coverage is typical of
death penalty stories.)
Posted by Jim Miller at September 10, 2010
10:09 AM | Email This
1. How many lives are saved when a baby human being is executed by other human beings. Think about it.
Duff - Really?
You're going to compare an innocent baby to a monster who brutally murdered a young woman in the prime of her life?
Political disagreements aside, you're usually better than this. Very poor form.
"I only killed one victim," he said.
"I cannot really see that there is true justice. Hopefully, sometime in the future that gets straightened out."~ Murderer Cal Brown
This idiot and all of these death row scumbags should have 3 years of appeals and then "lights out". To keep them alive is not only expensive, it unfairly further burdens the loved ones of the people they murder while unnecessarily dragging their appeals through the court system. And yes, it is a deterrant.
4. You weren't pensive enough in thinking about my rhetorical question; ergo forming a premature conclusion. :)
Killing people is good when the government does it.
Providing people access to health care which prevents them from dying 'early' is bad when the government does it.
No doubt you disagree. Probably I could have phrased it better.
6. I think we'd have to get a lot more aggressive as a society in executing the truly depraved, and would welcome the decisiveness. There's nothing civil about trying to understand, tolerate or bargain with the Gary Ridgeways and Bin Ladens of the world.
7. I believe killers like Brown definitely deserve to die -- in prison, of natural causes. The biggest problem I have with capital punishment is that our society is just not capable of anything approaching fairness or consistency in its application. If you're famous like OJ, and/or can afford good representation, you need not worry about being executed, no matter how barbaric your crime. If you're poor, you take your chances with an overworked public defender, some of whom have been known to fall asleep during trial. Most nations -- reflecting a majority of world opinion -- recognize the inequity inherent in the practice, and they don't seem to have suffered as a result of its abolition. The murder rate in the U.S. remains much higher than in virtually any European country, and -- in the aggregate -- tends to be higher in states that still have the death penalty on the books than in those that don't. It's just not worth the cost to our national image as a self-proclaimed defender of human rights.
I see no rational basis in putting the matter of anyones life OR death in the hands of a government employee. Killing is wrong whether it's abortion, murder or execution.
As a conservative male, I don't question a woman's right to her choice.
As a moral human I don't contemplate taking someones life for any reason.
And as an anti government citizen I certainly don't want the political ruling class in the pro-active killing business (abortion, war or executions).
Mike- since you have no values- don't try and be the spokesperson for others who do have values.
Killing really bad guys is good when the government actually does that instead of letting them wander around raping and killing w/out limits.
Destroying the greatest health care system in the world is a bad thing- and the government is doing just that.
Murdering unborn babies especially with public funds paid by people who oppose it is a really bad thing.
10. Capital punishment eliminates the possibility that some liberal will come to power and start releasing all the convicted murderers to kill again.
11. Do we give the 'almost born' (and certainly alive) 10-to-20 years to appeal to every Court in the land. Some of us are going to have to do some very heavy answering.
@11 Duffman on September 10, 2010 01:52 PM,
No problem candidate Reagan has promised a constitutional amendment banning abortion on demand.... oh wait.
13. Just one question - Where is his rotting corpse so I can urinate on it?
14. #11: Yep. After all, what do all those baby boys and girls do to deserve the death penalty? This creep tortured and killed someone. And had no repentance about it whatsoever. Justice has been served with this execution. I don't even like to imagine what this girl's family has had to go through the last two decades!
Don't often find myself agreeing with Duffman, but he is absolutely correct in #11.
Vote for Patty Murray and other baby butchers and YOU are sanctioning infanticide. Murray and her ilk will stand in front of God one day to give an account of her actions. Do YOU wish to stand with her?
I'm often amazed at how depraved conservatives can be.
First of all, first-term abortion is hardly "infanticide". Connecting a ball of tissue that is not "alive" to the state-sanctioned murder of a living human being is completely amoral... but hey, par for the course for conservatives.
Second, I'm amused that conservatives are all too willing to cherry-pick studies to support the death penalty when -- by Jim's very admission -- there is NO consensus on the effect. (Funny that there's a preponderance of evidence for global warming, but conservatives don't use the same standards for that.)
Jim, by drawing the conclusions that you do here, you're just plain dishonest. You also show that conservatives don't really care about ethics and principles... they just like claiming that they do. When the rubber hits the road, though, you just throw it all out the window.
17. Demo Kid: I would be against the death penalty if anyone, and I really mean anyone could guarantee that the convicted subhumans would never again be able to harm another person. But you and I both know such guarantees cannot be made. A life sentence hardly ever means life. Therefore, in order to protect society from monsters like this, the death penalty needs to mean death. As for you remarks on abortion, you seem woefully unconcerned at the damage it is doing to the black community. Planned Parenthood targets black urban areas and therefore the abortion rate is far higher among black communities than otherwise. PP also encourages their young clients in what I call a "rut and gut" policy that decimates family values, ethical conduct, and the actual black community in reducing the birth rate. Just exactly what Margaret Sanger stated was her goal. I'd call that racist and murder, no matter what trimester. And you condone this?
You mean Brown waterboarded Ms. Washa? Oh, the humanity.
"Providing people access to health care...."
Pray tell, how do people not have access to healthcare?
Can you present one example of anyone who has been denied access to healthcare? Or is access defined as having a second party, excepting employer provided health care as part of a benefits package or an individually purchased health care plan, pay for one's healthcare.
No, in the libtard lexicon "access to healthcare" means having a non economic actor pay for other's healthcare.
What you libtards don't understand is that when you wet your pants and cry about a "right" to something, say healthcare, essentially you are declaring that you approve of the state stealing, at the barrel of a gun, the time, income, or property of another.
Stealing from others is what libtards do best. Libtards don't produce anything, don't have productive jobs and don't create wealth. Libtards consume wealth they have not created.
I'm often amazed at how depraved liberals can be.
Connecting a murderous beast - convicted to death by a jury of his peers - to the innocent life form of an unborn child is completely amoral... but hey, par for the course for liberals.
After reading the dimbulb child's inane posting, I was mentally preparing the words for a response, but you stated everything I intended to say and probably did it better.
And yes, leftists like dimbulb are indeed depraved and incomprehensibly cruel and evil.
@17: Sigh. Seems like conservatives love to spout off about life and liberty, and about how liberals hate the rule of law and make decisions based on emotion. All you're proving here, though, is that you want to use the power of the state for vengeance, and NOT justice. That, in effect, is all that the death penalty really is... a refined, genteel lynch mob where you yourself have clean hands with respect to the entire process.
Do I think that many of the folks on death row are monsters? Sure. But taking someone's life is the ultimate irreversible act, and a power that the state should never use unless absolutely unavoidable. If you found evidence that exonerated someone or cast doubt on whether capital punishment should have been used, they cannot be given their life back. If some treatment for psychopathy or violent tendencies were to ever be discovered, you would be murdering someone who could be treated for their illnesses. In modern society, there are exceedingly few cases where the state would ever REALLY be forced to kill someone, especially outside of a situation where law enforcement was acting in self-defense.
And in terms of your statements about abortion, you're a damned idiot. If you're looking for damaging effects to the African-American community, you can really look no farther than conservative economic policies. You're looking at one symptom, and not at much broader problem... a problem that you're quite glad to perpetuate.
@19: Unlike you, I don't quite consider a tiny ball of cells to be a person. But you're condoning the use of the powers of the state to kill someone while, even by your own definitions, I'm not talking about the state forcing anyone to do anything. Who precisely is "amoral"?
@20: And yes, leftists like dimbulb are indeed depraved and incomprehensibly cruel and evil.
You're the only one proposing that the state should murder people. That's as cruel and evil as you can get.
I'm going to close this post because there have been too many personal insults for my tastes.
(The ones directed at me were kind of amusing, and will provide material for another post, on rational arguments, but I don't care for the others -- especially when they come from people I mostly agree with.)