Quotes from Law Enforcement:


…being selected as a defendant for a capital case is as random and serendipitous as being struck by lightning.

— Robert Del Tufo, former Attorney General of New Jersey

As a police chief, I find this use of state resources offensive… Give a law enforcement professional like me that $250 million, and I’ll show you how to reduce crime. The death penalty isn’t anywhere on my list.

Chief James Abbott, Police Chief and former death penalty supporter, West Orange, NJ

Spending all this money on the death penalty might be worth it – if it actually made our communities safer. But it doesn’t… Our communities would be exponentially better off by reinvesting the time, money and resources we spend on trying to get a few people executed into crime prevention measures that work.

— Norm Stamper, Former Seattle Police Chief

Continuing to spend millions of dollars to take a murder defendant who has already been caught and subject him to death rather than life without parole will not prevent the next murder. Redirecting money to more vigorously apprehend and prosecute armed robbers, rapists, burglars, and those who commit gun crimes will prevent murders and save lives.

— Robert M. Carney, Schenectady, NY District Attorney

Eliminating the death penalty… will not hinder the prosecutorial capacity to seek, or the court’s ability to impose, ‘life without parole’ sentences for serious, heinous crimes and criminals.

Scott Harshbarger, former District Attorney and former Attorney General of Massachusetts, which has no death penalty

There was this big old-line officer, a well liked fellow, and he oversaw the executions. Afterwards he’d get very, very drunk and not come in for several days. It’s terrible, terrible – I get very emotional thinking about it. I certainly don’t like terrorism or murder but there has to be a better way than putting men to death.

— Steve Dalsheim, former superintendent, Sing Sing Prison, New York

I’ve been in this system for over 40 years. I’ve been held hostage and been through multiple prison riots. If someone told me that the death penalty would protect me as a corrections officer, I would be offended. Safety inside prisons depends on proper staffing, programming, and effective reintegration of inmates back into society. The death penalty does not safeguard anybody.

— Calvin Lightfoot, former Maryland Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services

A well-managed prison with proper classification and staffing can create incentives for lifers to behave while segregating and punishing those who are a threat before violence ever occurs… Prison safety depends on proper staffing, equipment, resources and training. Certainly the money spent on trying to put someone to death for over 20 years could find better use in addressing those practical needs of our correctional system.

— John Connor, former chief special prosecutor for the state of Montana for 21 years, prosecuting five death penalty cases involving prison homicides

As error-prone humans, we can’t guarantee a fail-safe criminal justice system; therefore, to be truly just we must abolish capital punishment.

— Sunil Dutta, lieutenant, Los Angeles Police Department

Our criminal justice system doesn’t always mete out justice and fairness in neat little packages – sometimes it’s a little rough. It’s not something you can compute with a calculus or with any kind of certainty as to who belongs and who doesn’t on death row.

— Martin Franz, prosecutor, Wayne County, Ohio

I think I could prove to you that I could put someone in the Waldorf Hotel for 60 to 70 years and feed them three meals a day cheaper than we can litigate a single death penalty case.

— Sterling Goodspeed, former District Attorney, Warren County, NY

The state can protect many more officers at a fraction of the cost by adding police, providing the best protective equipment available, and implementing effective policing programs known to reduce crime. The death penalty is simply a distraction from the real issues surrounding public safety.

— Patrick Murphy, Former Detroit And New York City Police Commissioner

I have experienced countless violent crime scenes… Of the accused murderers my fellow officers and I have brought to justice, I do not believe any of them was deterred in the least by Nebraska’s death penalty.

— Police Sergeant Jim Davidsaver, 20-year veteran of the Lincoln Police Department

I myself was haunted by the men I was asked to execute in the name of the State of Florida. I would wake up in the middle of the night to find them lurking at the foot of my bed.

Ron McAndrew, former warden, Florida State Prison, who presided over eight executions

I don’t believe there is a single qualified prison warden in this country that wouldn’t trade the death penalty for more resources to keep his or her facility safe. The death penalty system is just a drain on those resources, and it serves no purpose in the safety of the public or prisons.

— Ron McAndrew, former warden, Florida State Prison, who presided over eight executions

We have not viewed [abolition] as an impediment in the disposition of murder cases…As a practical matter, we have really seen no difference in the way we conduct our business in prosecuting murder cases.

— Edward Defazio, Prosecutor, Hudson County, NJ, noting that prosecuting cases and securing guilty pleas was not any more difficult since NJ repealed the death penalty

The death penalty throws millions of dollars down the drain – money that I could be putting directly to work fighting crime every day – while dragging victims’ families through a long and torturous process that only exacerbates their pain.

Police Chief James Abbott, who changed his mind about the death penalty after serving on the New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission

Sometimes I wonder whether people really understand what goes on down here and the effect it has on us. Killing people, even people you know are heinous criminals, is a gruesome business, and it takes a harsh toll… I have no doubt it’s disturbing for all of us. You don’t ever get used to it.

— Jim Willet, former warden, Huntsville, Texas, who oversaw 89 executions

A trial seeking life without parole is far speedier than a death penalty case and costs far less. By pursuing life without parole sentences instead of death, resources now spent on the death penalty prosecutions and appeals could be used to investigate unsolved homicides, modernize crime labs, and expand effective violence prevention programs.

Letter signed by 47 California law enforcement officials, March 28, 2008