Charlie Stross wrote:
> On Mon, Nov 30, 1998 at 11:02:15PM -0500, John Clark wrote:
> > I found some interesting statistics, in the USA the average time spent in jail
> > for someone convicted of homicide is 5 years 11 months. There are 3219
> > people on death row, one in 12 had been convicted of murder before.
> That's preposterous. I'm not going to repost my comments on the UK's
> approach -- but I think even death penalty proponents might agree that
> eighteen-year average terms are a bit closer to the mark than 5 years 11
Its actually probably true. John is talking about homicide, not murder. Only charges of Capital Murder can bring on the death penalty in most states, though the feds are now including some terrorist acts and I think big drug dealers. A homicide can be anything from being in a car accident with someone who gets killed and its your fault, up to whatever crime a prosecutor chooses to plea bargain down to homicide. You could even be charged with negligent homicide if, say, you don't put a cover over your well and some idiot falls down it, or if a thief tries to break into your house and he falls down the stairs because you just washed them and breaks his neck (this supposedly actually happened in New York in the 70's).
People who sit on death row are pretty much the only ones who serve what would be considered a real 'life' term, due to the appeals process. Those that get off after decades on death row usually do so cause the courts find he or she deserves a new trial due to a technicality, and since the witnesses may be all dead and the evidence destroyed, then the prosecution has no case to go on anymore. There is the occasional person who gets off because DNA evidence clears them of culpability. I think that there have been some 20-40 such individuals. Nowadays, such people would not even be convicted, if they had effective defenses.