Jared Lee Loughner took the deal and will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Wade Michael Page was shot to death by police.
Casey Anthony was found not guilty.
And Mumia's off the row.
There's still a chance for James Holmes, but it's far from a sure thing.
What's a death penalty supporter to do?
Oh, sure. Texas killed Marvin Wilson tonight despite overwhelming evidence that by any measure endorsed by medicine or social science he has mental retardation and ineligible for execution under the 8th Amendment.* He's the 25th person executed this year, but at this pace we won't even get to 50. As recently as 1999, we killed 98.
In fact, for all the bluster and all the bloodshed (we've executed 1302 men and women in this modern era of the death penalty in the US), we kill very few. California has more than 700 people on death row. It's executed 13. Even in Texas where they've killed 484 now and where executions are almost commonplace, the reality is that few killers are sentenced to die and many who are don't actually die at the hands of the state.
In 1972, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said that executions in this country were essentially random.
[D]eath sentences are cruel and unusual in the same way that being struck by lightning is cruel and unusual.
It was true then, when murder wasn't the only capital crime, juveniles weren't categorically excluded from execution, and death row in this country was about one-fifth the size it is today. It's just as true now.
In 1972, the Supreme Court declared all the death penalty laws in the country unconstitutional. In response, states rushed to enact new laws they hoped would comply. The Court hasn't invalidated a state's death penalty law since 1978, but 5 states have abolished their own laws in recent years.
Erika Christakis, at Time. com, says that focusing on cases like Wilson's where there's a particularly powerful argument against execution misses the point.
Yet, the focus on extreme cases like Wilson’s — and whether he is legally and somehow “legitimately” executable despite his mental incapacity — prevents us from facing a larger truth that all state-sanctioned executions are a shameful relic of a bygone era along with the burning of witches and the use of child labor in mines.
What's true of the First Amendment is true of the others, too. And it's certainly true of policy.
Ronald Reagan used to say that the most frightening words in the language were
I'm from the government and I'm here to help you.
Not because of bad intentions. Not even because the government wouldn't sometimes actually help. But because it couldn't be trusted.
I'm not Reagan, not a Reaganite. I believe in government. But I don't trust it. Nor do I trust the wisdom of the mob. Even the mob that's trying hard to not be a mob but to get it right.
With blips here and there, the reality is that death sentences are down. Executions are down. There are any number of reasons. One is that I'm not the only one who knows better than to trust the government or the mob.
*Kent Scheidegger disagrees. It's only whores and charlatans and defense attorneys (pretty much the same group according to Kent) and deeply naive abolitionists who believe Wilson to have mental retardation.