Thursday, June 21, 2018
News Roundup

High cost of the death penalty doesn't seem worth it

I went to court Thursday to see the hearing that ended with a jury voting that John Kalisz should die for his crimes — and to see if this bothered me even a little bit.

It didn't.

I'm not especially religious and don't think every human soul is sacred. There's 7 billion of us. This is a crowded old ship, and I don't see any reason to save a seat for this guy.

You don't want to take that line of thinking too far, of course. Just restrict it to people such as Kalisz. He shot five people, killed three of them and caused one of the injured survivors, his pregnant 18-year-old niece, to lose her fetus. If anybody deserves the death penalty, he does.

But the real issue here is not whether we're personally okay with the death penalty. It's whether the state needs to sentence people to death — whether it's worth its while.

I don't think so, partly because of how these sentences usually play out.

One other person whose guilt is not in question, who fully deserved his death sentence, is Freddie Lee Hall. Along with another man, Hall kidnapped a 21-year-old woman from a grocery in Leesburg, raped her, killed her and then drove to Hernando County, where he murdered a young sheriff's deputy named Lonnie Coburn.

That was 34 years ago, and Hall is still on death row, leading some people to say that we need to hurry the entire process along, to cut out all the ridiculous appeals.

The problem is, some appeals aren't ridiculous, and there's a local example of that, too. The 1986 first-degree murder conviction of Paul Hildwin is looking shakier all the time, with the most recent revelation being that DNA at the crime scene did not belong to Hildwin, but to another potential suspect, the victim's boyfriend.

And what is the public benefit when a murderer is eventually put to death?

If we want to make sure murderers don't murder again, we can lock them up for life. This is just as effective as execution for deterring other would-be killers. That, at least, is the majority opinion of criminologists.

So this isn't really about public safety. It's about emotional satisfaction — good old-fashioned revenge.

And, in a way, our pursuit of this elevates criminals, gives them more attention, time and money than they deserve.

A 2008 study by the nonpartisan Urban Institute put the long-term cost of a life sentence at $1.1 million, compared to $3 million for death. Though the study was conducted in another state, experts have told me previously that the costs in Florida are probably comparable — an extra $2 million or so for every death sentence.

I know it's a pittance spread over the general population. But wouldn't you rather this money be spent on education or health care?

Prosecutor Pete Magrino seemed to do a fine job of convicting Kalisz. Then we could have let the judge take over and sentence him to life in prison. We could have dispensed with the penalty phase, which is needed only for death cases, and the inevitable appeals which, in Kalisz's case, seem sure to waste the time of a lot of smart, well-educated people.

Because this is what I thought when I saw the judge, lawyers, jurors, bailiff and court reporter gathered on Thursday to decide the fate of the contemptible man in the defendant's chair:

We're going to spend an extra $2 million on this guy?

Comments
Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

ST. PETERSBURG — Missing all of 2017 might have been the absolute worst thing for Matt Duffy.Frustratingly idled as he eventually recovered and rehabbed from ongoing left heel issues, he couldn't play the game he loved, couldn't show the Rays o...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

TAMPA — Two of the city’s hottest developers — the groups behind Ulele and Armature Works — are heading to court over an old city building that sits between the hit eateries.Both want to redevelop the city’s former office of cable communications buil...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Domain Homes: Buyers love them, some others don’t

Domain Homes: Buyers love them, some others don’t

TAMPA — When the 2008 financial crash brought down the nation’s housing market, hundreds of home builders went out of business. Among them was Sharon McSwain Homes in Atlanta, forced to liquidate in 2009.But just as developers like to develop, builde...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Investigation finds three St. Petersburg police lieutenants lied about work records

Investigation finds three St. Petersburg police lieutenants lied about work records

ST. PETERSBURG — Three police lieutenants falsified records about where they were during work hours, according to the St. Petersburg Police Department — a severe violation of ethics for three leaders on the agency’s day shift.The lieutenants claimed ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Pasco deputies safely locate missing Holiday autistic teen

An autistic boy, who went missing after walking out of his Holiday home on Wednesday night, has been safely located.Jordan Webb, 16, left his home around 11 p.m., according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.He was safely located on Thursday mornin...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pastor took out an active shooter and expertly treated the wounded, all after delivering his Sunday sermon

Pastor took out an active shooter and expertly treated the wounded, all after delivering his Sunday sermon

On Sunday morning, David George, pastor of the Oakville, Washington, Assembly of God Church, delivered his sermon as he does every Sunday. The subject, on Father’s Day, was "The Value of MENtoring," about how much difference an individual can make in...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Supreme Court: Online shoppers can be forced to pay sales tax

Supreme Court: Online shoppers can be forced to pay sales tax

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court says states can force online shoppers to pay sales tax.The 5-4 ruling Thursday is a win for states, who said they were losing out on billions of dollars annually under two decades-old Supreme Court decisions that impact...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Suspect arrested in rapper XXXTentacion’s shooting death

Suspect arrested in rapper XXXTentacion’s shooting death

FORT LAUDERDALE — Authorities in Florida have arrested a suspect in the killing of rising rap star XXXTentacion, who was fatally shot in his luxury BMW electric car as he left an upscale motorcycle dealership.Dedrick Devonshay Williams, 22, of Pompan...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rick Stroud weighs in on report about possible Jameis Winston suspension

Rick Stroud weighs in on report about possible Jameis Winston suspension

Tampa Bay Times beat reporter Rick Stroud isn't buying an ESPN radio report that any suspension levied against Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston by the NFL would stem from Winston's failure to report an alleged incident between him and a female Ub...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Hundreds flock New York City’s LaGuardia to greet migrant children flown in from the border

Hundreds flock New York City’s LaGuardia to greet migrant children flown in from the border

As Air Force One shuttled President Donald Trump back to Washington following a boisterous heartland rally, hundreds of people filled the terminals at the president’s hometown airport.The spontaneous demonstration at New York City’s LaGuardia was spa...
Updated: 1 hour ago