Thursday, June 23, 2011

Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should

So that didn't take long. Only a few days after splashing Whitey Bulger's face all over the news, they caught him. In reading the NYT story about his capture, one thing jumped out at me. The United States attorney in Boston said that Bulger could not face the federal death penalty but that it was an option in cases pending in Florida and Oklahoma.

Huh? Would either of those jurisdictions really try to seek the death penalty against this man? He's 81 years old. He has already exceeded average life expectancy. Getting to an actual execution date could take at least 10 years. And if the Feds or Massachusetts get him first, neither state could even start the process for some time. So even best case scenario, he'd be 90 or older before he could be executed. I wonder what the odds are of him even living that long.

Surely reasonable people can agree that this is a case where pursuing the death penalty would serve no useful purpose. It would waste tremendous time and resources and is highly unlikely to result in an execution. Now, I'm sure the US attorney was just answering a question, so there is no reason to assume either Florida or Oklahoma are going to pursue the death penalty. But if a reporter asked the question, you can bet other people are thinking about it, too. And that reporters in those states might ask the same question of authorities in those states.

I hope that both states recognize they can make far better use of their resources than to seek the death penalty against this man. Between the 3 jurisdictions, I'm sure they can figure out how to keep him incarcerated for the remainder of his natural life. Given his age, he's going to die of natural causes either way, so those 2 states might as well save themselves the trouble of pretending otherwise. They'd be saving a whole heck of a lot of tax-payer money as well.

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1 comment:

Burt Likko said...

The apocryphal story goes like this: the judge sentences the convicted defendant to three consecutive 150-year sentences. The defendant protests, "But your honor, I can't serve three consecutive 150-year sentences." The judge says back, "Do the best you can."

I suspect that 81-year-old guys tend to do rather poorly in the joint, even if they are given veneration and respect by their fellow prisoners (which it's far from clear that Bulger would get).

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