You may not remember Duane West from the Truman Capote nonfiction novel, In Cold Blood, or the movies that were made based upon that book (there have been several) … but Duane West was the district attorney who won his case to have Richard Hickock and Perry Smith put to death for their killing of the Clutter family in the middle of the night in their Holcomb, Kansas, home.
“In Cold Blood” D.A. Responds to Kansas Legislature’s Possible Death Penalty Budget Cut
Today, the Kansas Legislature is facing a possible $650,000,000 deficit for their 2010 budget, and they are seriously considering ending capital punishment as solely a budgetary measure. In response, Duane West has taken to the media to voice his vehement objection to this ever happening – and what he is saying for Kansas is what lots of prosecutors and death penalty advocates say a lot of the time (quoting West in the Kansas City Star):
1. Instead of doing away with the death penalty, more crimes should be made eligible for capital punishment.
2. It is the prosecutor’s duty to protect and serve – just like every other member of law enforcement. Part of that duty may be to ask for the death penalty in certain cases, for the protection of the public and in service to the law.
3. There are cases where individuals, from the perspective of the prosecution, should be put to death because otherwise they will kill again.
4. Having a death penalty may be the only deterrent in some situations, with West giving the example of a pending Kansas capital punishment case where the state is seeking the death penalty against three former Hutchinson Correctional Facility inmates who are accused of murdering a fellow prison inmate. West’s argument is that for prison inmates already serving significant time, capital punishment may be the only deterrent to killing behind bars.
5. Finally, Duane West doesn’t buy the argument that capital punishment costs so much more than life imprisonment, because almost every case with a murder conviction does go up on appeal.
Duane West Gives Pro-Capital Punishment Arguments in a Nutshell
Now, Kansas prosecutor Duane West doesn’t give us every argument that has been advanced in favor of the death penalty. And, there have been many over the course of history. Capital punishment has been a lawful measure for protecting societies since biblical times. (Check out Exodus 21:12.)
What Duane West does give us is a nutshell of the arguments that death penalty proponents tend to make, and key here: West gives us the clear attitude and perspective that most attorneys who try cases for the State have regarding the death penalty.
From their perspective, the real problem with capital punishment is that there are not enough crimes for which the death penalty can be imposed.
In a nutshell, most prosecutors like the death penalty, they want more of it.