MR. DEATH PENALTY WHERE ARE YOU? 428 murders as of October 18th, 2019

373

By PHILBERT GERVAIS

People have asked if all we do on this tiny island is kill each other! What else can one deduce when they read that we have 428 murders and we are only reached around 320 days in a calendar year? More murders than calendar days!

In 2018 at this same time, there were 417 murders! In 2019, the number of murders from October 1st–October 18th, 2019 was 19 murders. If it is any sort of con­solation, the number of murders during the same period (October 1st–October 18th, 2018) was 15! Hooray???????
One cannot keep up with every murder as it seems to have become commonplace! A foreign friend asked: “How many people were killed on your little island today?” That is where we have reached while public figures and those with the ability to do something contin­ue with business as usual and skew the statistics to suit their purpose.
We stand out with this heinous murder statistic. The murder rate per capita in Trinidad, reported by UNODC, is 31 per 100,000 per­sons and stood at 11th in the world and 6th in the Caribbean.
This issue of the escalating homi­cide rate and mechanisms to ame­liorate it is multi-faceted. While the issue of depleting the homicide rate involves a multi-dimensional approach where some tools (such as moral education, more voca­tional programs, increasing the social responsibility of the denomi­national churches, increasing tem­porary relief programs, looking at proper rehabilitation programs that are geared to minimizing repeat of­fenders, mentoring programs) will assist in the long-term, we must look at what is required now given a most horrendous and unspeakable murder-rate.
New York State that has over 20 million people has a far low­er homicide rate than Trinidad and Tobago has. Imagine from 2002-2009, we had over 3,000 homicides(Excluding other serious crimes like Shooting and wound­ing with intent to kill, Rape).
The Inter-American Commis­sion on Human Rights is again calling on the many OAS States to abolish the death penalty or at least have a moratorium in its ap­plication.
This call may not be the best at this time in our country’s life as we have seen that there are more mur­ders than calendar days at the time. The situation is worsening and the reality is we need to act now with the fastest deterrent possible.
Many human rights advocates vehemently and vociferously want an abolition of the death penalty and deem it inhumane and barbaric. I ask, for someone to stab someone multiple times, slit their throat, dis­member their parts is humane? Do we remember the names Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, Chuck Attin, our very own Guerra who repeatedly raped a young woman, stabbed her, slit her throat, then burned her four-month-old baby with a lighting cigarette in Waller­field, slit her husband’s throat?

The death penalty is the law of T&T

The death penalty is the law of Trinidad and Tobago and one would recall that in the Constitu­tional Amendment (Capital Of­fences Bill) that was brought by the Government in 2012, it ini­tially had a categorization of murders as what is obtained in the United States. The Opposition had object­ed to this and so the Government of the day had decided to remove the categorization of murders and kept the death penalty for all murders.
Research has shown that ex­perts and empirical data support the death penalty. The death pen­alty is currently enforced in the United States, and a substantial body of research has been done in the country to support the deter­rence effect from implementing this policy.
Emory University Economics Department Chairman Hashem Dezhbakhsh and Emory Profes­sors Paul Rubin and Joanna Shep­herd in 2003 state that “our results suggest that capital punishment has a strong deterrent effect. An increase in any of the probabilities — arrest, sentencing or execution — tends to reduce the crime rate. In particular, each execution results, on average, in eighteen fewer mur­ders — with a margin of error of plus or minus 10.” Their database used nationwide data from 3,054 US counties from 1977-1996.
In 2003 University of Colorado (Denver) Economics Department Chairman Naci Mocan and Grad­uate Assistant R. Kaj Gottings found “a statistically significant relationship between executions, pardons and homicide. Specifi­cally each additional execution reduces homicides by 5 to 6, and three additional pardons (com­mutations) generate 1 to 1.5 ad­ditional murders.” Their “data set contains detailed information on the entire 6,143 death sentences between 1977 and 1997.
SUNY (Buffalo) Professor Liu in 2001 found that legalizing the death penalty not only adds capital punishment as a deterrent but also increases the marginal productiv­ity of other deterrence measures in reducing murder rates. “Abol­ishing the death penalty not only gets rid of a valuable deterrent, it also decreases the deterrent effect of other punishments.” “The de­terrent effects of the certainty and severity of punishments on murder are greater in retentionist (death penalty) states than in abolition (non-death penalty) states.”

There are positive societal spin-offs from implementing the death penalty

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) economist Dr. Paul Zimmerman stated in 2003, it is estimated that each state exe­cution deters somewhere between 3 and 25 murders per year (14 be­ing the average). Assuming that the value of human life is approxi­mately $5 million {i.e. the average of the range estimates provided by Viscussi (1993)}, our estimates imply that society avoids losing approximately $70 million per year on average at the current rate of execution all else equal.” The study used state-level data from 1978 to 1997 for all 50 states (ex­cluding Washington D.C.).
When presented with a body of research like this, it is clear that there are positive societal spin-offs from implementing the death penalty. There is even prior evi­dence of its effect in Trinidad and Tobago, as during the period of the 1994 Glen Ashby and 1999 Dole Chadee executions, murders fell by 24% percent over this period, only to exponentially rise up when the implicit threat of the execu­tions being implemented subsided.
It is clear, given our current ho­micides levels, we as a country need to find the common ground so that the death penalty could be immediately implemented, as it is the law of the land. This is­sue should not be politicized any further while innocent citizens re­main under siege.