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Capital Punishment and the Media By: Michael Tremoglie
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, January 24, 2003


Columnist E.J. Dionne is proffering the absurd theory that the media is actually conservative. Perhaps Dionne can explain how the “conservative” New York Times and Washintgon Post distorted the results of a new study about racial bias in Maryland’s capital punishment policies to concur with the liberal dogma of death penalty opponents.

 Both the Times and the Post inferred that the study concluded race was a factor in determining who was sentenced to be executed for murder. However, the study, which was commissioned by Maryland’s governor in 2001 and published several days ago, states quite the contrary. The principal authors, Professor Raymond Paternoster of the University of Maryland and Professor Robert Brame of the University of South Carolina, wrote:

 “Looking across the different decision points, there is no evidence that the race of the defendant matters at any stage once case characteristics are controlled for . . . As we found earlier in the unadjusted analysis, there is a slight tendency for black offenders to be less likely to be death notified. This disappears, however, when case characteristics are taken into account, and in fact switches direction with black offenders slightly more at risk. The difference is quite small, however, and the differences for each stage between black and non-black offenders are also substantively small. The largest difference occurs at the decision to impose a death sentence given a penalty trial. There, the probability that a black offender will be sentenced to death is .444 and the probability for non-black offenders is .376, a statistically non-significant difference of .068. In sum, we have found no evidence that the race of the defendant matters in the processing of capital cases in the state.”  (Emphasis added.)

 The report emphatically states that the defendant’s race does not matter, yet the liberal mainstream media myrmidons describe the report as if it does. The difference is astounding. The headline of a Maryland newspaper, The Gazette, proclaims, “Death Penalty: Race, Location Matter.” Yet in fine print The Gazette writes, “(the report’s) author stresses no evidence of racism.” Further, “the study found that . . . the race of the offender plays little role” in sentencing. The story concludes, “The report did not find racial bias in sentencing.”

 Why is it that the The Gazette (and the Times and the Post) failed to introduce the report to its readers this way? Why did they give the impression that racial bias is a factor in Maryland’s issuance of executions?

This skewed coverage is typical of the media’s willingness to aid and abet liberal crusades. The mainstream media – Dionne’s claims to the contrary notwithstanding – continue to assist in disinformation campaigns that promote liberal causes. The debate about capital punishment is probably the paradigm of this. The anti-capital punishment propaganda is circulated and never questioned by the media. Actor Mike Farrell, the anti-war crusader who also leads an anti-capital punishment organization, routinely fabricates information in interviews and writes disingenuous columns with little or no concern about refutation by the media claques.

Ironically, despite the deceit, the public still favors capital punishment by wide margins. A Gallup poll in October 2002 indicated that Americans favor the death penalty by almost three-to-one. According to Gallup, 70 percent of Americans favor capital punishment while 25 percent oppose it. A 2000 Zogby poll revealed that 78 percent of Italian-Americans and 75 percent of Asian-Americans favored capital punishment. Among Hispanics, Zogby found 73 percent support for the death penalty, while 71 percent of Arab-Americans are advocates of capital punishment. Even 64 percent of African-Americans, the group supposedly most “discriminated” against, back capital punishment. This is particularly interesting because opponents have attempted for decades to discredit capital punishment by saying it is racist. This is why Maryland commissioned its study.

Yet the left’s drumbeat goes on.  “Civil rights” attorneys and organizations are always quoted about the racial disparities in the criminal justice system, claiming blacks are convicted/sentenced/executed in disproportion to their percentage of the general population. This misinformation is repeated in the media and in academia.

An excellent example is the 1992 U.S. Supreme Court (USSC) case Herrera v. Collins. According to the capital punishment abolitionists, the USSC held that “new evidence of innocence to stop an execution was unconstitutional.” When one of my graduate criminology professors made this incredible claim, I felt I should examine the case for myself. It turned out my professor’s statement was bogus. However, this misinformation is still dispersed at colleges and law schools around the country.

The capital punishment abolitionists - like most liberals - attempt to divide America. They will cleave the races, the classes, the genders, or the faithful so they can obtain control. There are legitimate reasons to want to abolish capital punishment. However, the liberals only want to present their case using propaganda and deceit.   One wonders why.


Michael P. Tremoglie is the author of the new novel A Sense of Duty, and an ex-Philadelphia cop. E-mail him at elfegobaca@comcast.net.


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