Troy King And The Death Penalty

I need to get to work, but I had to comment on Troy King’s response to the recent ABA report on Alabama’s death penalty system.

Danny has pointed out most of King’s misleading statements. I won’t repeat what he has already said. Instead, let me comment on a few other problems with King’s response.

First, his allegations that the authors of the study are biased:

of the eight members of this death penalty assessment team, only one was a prosecutor and he disagreed with the overall recommendation for a death penalty moratorium. The other seven members have honorable and commendable backgrounds, yet their objectivity as it relates to the death penalty is questionable

Why, do you suppose, there was only one prosecutor? Because the ABA sought out only rabidly anti-death penalty people? Or, did they ask other prosecutors, but fears of responses like Troy King’s led them to decline the invitation? You don’t have to guess, because the study’s author answers the question for us (emphasis added):

The only design we had was to make sure that we had at least one criminal defense lawyer (Richard Jaffe), one prosecutor (Arthur Green), one judge (Judge Carroll, now dean at Cumberland Law School), one legislator (Senator Sanders), and one former or current state bar president (Bill Clark.) We also added a couple of hard-working junior attorneys from big firms to assist with our efforts.

As it happens, finding ANY prosecutor was not a simple task. This study was organized by the ABA, a group that Attorney General Troy King called “a liberal, activist organization with agendas they always push.” As a consequence, prosecutors worried that the assessment might result in recommendation of a moratorium. Taking such a position is virtually untenable for any elected DA in the state and even being on a committee reaching that conclusion is quite unattractive. (Indeed, several high-profile death penalty supporters who provided substantial assistance on the report actually asked that their names not be included in the acknowledgements.) I will tell you, however, that until the final meeting on the report, I was not at all certain that the committee would recommend a moratorium – and the ABA never asked us to issue such a recommendation.

You say that the one DA dissented from the key recommendation. Actually, he dissented from two recommendations (the moratorium and elimination of judicial override of jury imposed life sentences.) But other than that, he and every other committee member signed on to the rest of the recommendations calling for: an overhaul of defense services, the right to defense counsel in state collateral challenges, new laws requiring preservation of biological material and allowing defendants to test that material post-conviction, a law defining mental retardation, improvements in proportionality review, new guidelines for use of the “heinous, atrocious and cruel” aggravator, replacing the requirement of 10 jurors with unanymity, and new approaches to self-evaluation and data collection around the death penalty. And perhaps more importantly, although we didn’t vote point by point on this, everyone generally agreed on to the body of the report which found massive problems in the state’s death penalty system.

So if there were no prosecutors, Troy King has only himself and similarly petty minded people to blame.

Furthermore, note that the only thing the prosecutor rejected was the call for a moratorium and the call to eliminate judicial override. He did not contest any of the underlying facts.

The real service of the panel was documenting the problems. Every attorney in this state already knew that judicial override always goes in favor of death. The study provided empirical proof of that suspicion. It does not matter how biased the authors are; it is a FACT that Alabama’s elected judges override jury’s life sentences ninety percent of the time. (see correction, below). The problems exist. The issue is what to do about them.

Second, and more importantly, this statement summarizes all that is wrong with Troy King:

Studies such as the one produced by the ABA reinforce my deep concern with liberal agendas that refuse to focus on anything other than the rights of criminals. All the studies and social programs known to man will not stop a killer from killing. When a killer chooses to kill – even knowing that he will pay with his life – it is proof positive that the liberal prevention program approach will not work.

If the ABA would like to perform a worthwhile service, they could begin by demonstrating the same measure of support and concern for those dragged into the criminal justice system as they demonstrate for those whose evil deeds took them there. If they did, they would meet the victims who could tell them, first hand, that agendas like those the ABA pushes have already put a de facto moratorium in place that causes victims to wait decades before death sentences are ever carried out.

To people like Troy King, courts are nothing but an annoyance. All they do is protect “the rights of criminals.” Troy King despises the Bill of Rights, because, in his mind, there are only two kinds of people: Good People and criminals. His office only punishes criminals. So as long as you are a Good Person, you are safe.  

Would that it were so. Like it or not, people lie, make mistakes and do stupid things. That includes cops, prosecutors, eyewitnesses, experts, and attorneys general. People are people even when they are state officials or crime victims. Because people are people, we limit their power to take away another person’s freedom.

Crime is serious, but so is executing someone. The balance struck between penalizing crime and protecting freedom is what Troy King derisively calls “the rights of criminals.” No, they are not. They are your rights, and my rights.

If the state wants to kill someone it ought to have procedures in place to ensure that it only kills people who really deserve to die. The ABA report highlights several flaws that mean we could be executing people who do not deserve to die. An honest man would read the report and address the problems. Troy King, on the other hand, can do nothing but spew empty rhetoric and meaningless catch phrases. 

In favor of the moratorium, we have a detailed collection of facts. Opposed to it, we have Troy King’s  half truths, irrelevant personal attacks, and emotional appeals. Sounds to me like Troy King is the one who won’t let the facts interfere with his convictions.   

(Correction: That should say, “ninety percent of overrides are in favor of death.” The point is that when Alabama’s elected judges use override, it is almost always to reject a jury’s sentence of life and impose their own sentence of death, rather than to reject a death sentence and impose life.)

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3 Comments on “Troy King And The Death Penalty”

  1. Kathy Says:

    You have to be pretty bad to make Bill Pryor look good by comparison. Troy King wants to get re-elected, period. He doesn’t care about looking at the facts and making a principled decision.


  2. [...] at Alablawg has interesting follow-up comments on Troy King’s response to the ABA report on Alabama’s death penalty system – [...]


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