AP

Death Penalty Questionable As A Deterrent To Mass Killing

Aug 6, 2019, 2:51 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:03 pm
A man cries beside a cross at a makeshift memorial near the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping ...
A man cries beside a cross at a makeshift memorial near the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019, in El Paso, Texas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
(AP Photo/John Locher)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is calling for new death penalty legislation as an answer to hate crimes and mass killings. But whether that would deter shooters is questionable — especially since most don’t live to face trial.

More than half the perpetrators of mass shootings since 2006 have ended up dead at the scene of their crimes, either killed by others or dying by suicide, according to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University.

Death penalty scholars and psychologists say killers motivated by ideology are unlikely to be deterred by punishment. Most of them are willing to die or understand the risk and prepare for it. Some want the fame that an execution could potentially bring to their cause.

“In fact, in the case of terrorism, it might be worse than that because you have the very real possibility of creating martyrs,” said Gary LaFree, head of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, and co-founder of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.

Trump’s remarks Monday on the death penalty followed weekend attacks that killed a total of 31 people in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. The shooting suspect in El Paso is believed to have posted a racist, anti-immigrant screed on the internet before the shooting. The motive in Dayton remains unknown.

Trump said he was ordering the Justice Department to propose legislation ensuring that “those who commit hate crimes and mass murders face the death penalty, and that this capital punishment be delivered quickly, decisively, and without years of needless delay.”

The death penalty was one of several steps Trump outlined that embrace conservative responses to mass shootings — such as denouncing video games and calling for changes in mental health laws — while brushing aside Democratic calls for stricter gun regulations and demands that he back off his virulent anti-immigrant rhetoric.

But the deterrent effect of the death penalty has long been questioned. Several studies have shown it doesn’t work to reduce crime. And perpetrators of mass killings are already subject to the death penalty in 30 states as well as under federal law. According to an analysis from the Death Penalty Information Center, all but two of the states where mass shootings have occurred already have capital punishment.

The El Paso shooting occurred even though Texas has used the death penalty far more than any other state, executing 108 prisoners since 2010.

“Look at Dylan Roof,” said Miriam Gohara, a Yale University law professor who studies the death penalty, referring to the man convicted and sentenced to death in the racist 2015 killings at a Charleston church. “He has been sentenced to death. And that clearly did not dissuade these people.”

Of the 82 public mass shootings since 2006, 30 gunmen killed themselves and 16 were killed, according to the AP/USA Today/Northeastern database. Fourteen are serving life sentences, 12 are awaiting trial, and only three have been given the death penalty. There was also one who committed suicide while in custody. Others received other penalties and one suspect had charges dropped.

The database tracks every mass killing in the country dating back to 2006, defined as involving four or more people killed (not including the offender) over 24 hours, regardless of weapon, location, victim-offender relationship or motive.

The federal death penalty was reinstated in 1988, though actual executions rare. The government has put to death only three defendants since 1988, the most recent of which occurred in 2003, when Louis Jones was executed for the 1995 kidnapping, rape and murder of a female soldier.

The Justice Department has continued to approve death penalty prosecutions and federal courts have sentenced defendants to death. Attorney General William Barr recently ordered the Bureau of Prisons to schedule executions again , starting in December.

Experts say death penalty cases are time consuming and costly, and suggest the money would be better spent in mental health. And because there isn’t one motivator that pushes someone into violence, there isn’t a panacea answer.

For one thing, psychologists haven’t been able to study many of the shooters, said Frank Farley, a Temple University psychology professor and former president of the American Psychological Association. “Because so many of them never survive, there’s no fabulous study on the psychology of mass killers,” he said.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

AP

R&B singer R. Kelly (L) arrives at the Cook County courthouse where jury selection is scheduled to ...
Claire Savage and Michael Tarm, Associated Press

Chicago prosecutor dropping R. Kelly sex-abuse charges

A Chicago prosecutor said Monday that she's dropping sex-abuse charges against singer R. Kelly following federal convictions in two courts that should guarantee the disgraced R&B star will be locked up for decades.
1 day ago
Amy Robach and TJ Holmes attend the 2022 ABC Disney Upfront at Basketball City - Pier 36 - South St...
Associated Press

TV anchors T.J. Holmes, Amy Robach leave ABC amid romance

T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach, anchors at the afternoon extension of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” are leaving the network.
1 day ago
FILE - Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey gets ready to spin his popular "Wheel of Fugitive" in July...
Associated Press

Florida sheriff sued for ‘Wheel of Fugitive’ defamation

A man has filed a defamation lawsuit against a Florida sheriff who posts weekly “Wheel of Fugitive” videos on social media.
1 day ago
Police tape hangs from a sign post outside Richneck Elementary School following a shooting on Janua...
Ben Finley and Denise Lavoie

School where boy shot teacher reopens with added security

The Virginia elementary school where a 6-year-old boy shot his teacher has reopened with stepped-up security and a new administrator.
1 day ago
RowVaughn Wells speaks to attendees during a candlelight vigil for her son Tyre Nichols at the Tobe...
Adrian Sainz

6th Memphis officer relieved of duty in Nichols arrest

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A sixth Memphis Police Department officer has been disciplined for his involvement in the brutal beating and arrest of Tyre Nichols, a department spokeswoman said Monday. Officer Preston Hemphill was relieved of duty shortly after the Jan. 7 arrest of Nichols, who died three days later at a hospital, Memphis police […]
1 day ago
FILE: Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks during a news conference outside of his off...
Hope Yen and Zeke Miller

Biden, McCarthy to discuss debt limit in talks on Wednesday

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says he's looking forward to discussing with President Joe Biden a “reasonable and responsible way that we can lift the debt ceiling” when the two meet Wednesday at the White House.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t Let a Ransomware Attack Get You Down | Protect Your Workplace Today with Cyber Insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Death Penalty Questionable As A Deterrent To Mass Killing