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Did Hanson get what he deserved?

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We asked before on another thread if Eric Hanson should get the death penalty, but now it's a reality after a jury took just 90 minutes to decide his fate. He'll be heading off to death row for the cold-blooded slaughter of four family members, where he'll probably spent at least 15 years (or maybe more due to the Illinois moratorium on capital punisment) before his sentence is carried out. Would a more fitting penalty be life without parole for the killer? Maybe he'd suffer more that way for his heinous crime. But, in broader terms, we'd like to ask: Does the state have the right to take a human life, even if that life belongs to Eric Hanson? His case opens the grounds for discussing whether capital punishment - banned in most European countries - is a fitting or even moral punishment no matter how evil the crime, or a throwback to the old days when it was an "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." What do you think...and make no mistake, we have no sympathy here for Eric Hanson. We're just posing the question.

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It sounds like this study has the makings of a good newspaper article. Has any thought been given to covering it in the Sun?


Response from Ted:

We shared the release with our readers here. While you could argue the study has a direct connection to Naperville, via Hanson, we are not planning a story at this time.

A group issued this release today:

The Death Sentence of Eric Hanson Prompts an Examination of New Study Into Costs of the Death Penalty System in Illinois

Chicago, Illinois: In light of the recent death sentence of Eric Hanson in DuPage County, the Abolition in Illinois Movement urges examination of a significant study, just completed, about the actual costs of the Capital Litigation Trust Fund used to fund death penalty trials. Illinois has been under a moratorium from executions in place for the last two gubernatorial administrations necessitated by widespread error in the system. The study highlights the significant taxpayer funds necessary to obtain the few death sentences given each year in Illinois.

Eric Hanson was convicted this week of murdering his own family, an extremely heinous crime. Taking into account the monies allocated by the State of Illinois General Revenue Fund to the Capital Litigation Trust Fund, in the period of a surging state budget crisis, pressing questions should be raised, such as how much net return is the Illinois public getting for this significant investment?

Since the inception of the Capital Litigation Trust Fund in 2000, the State of Illinois has disbursed $148,944,735 and Eric Hanson is number fourteen to be sent to death row since Governor Ryan cleared off death row in an historic mass commutation. This CLTF figure total means an average expenditure of $10,638,909.64 per death sentence actually obtained, due to the many capital trials ending instead in life sentences. This figure does not even include the salaries of public defenders and prosecutors, appeals, incarceration, or execution.

This cost study, researched and written by Elliot Slosar, shows exact figures of the costs associated with the Capital Litigation Trust Fund over the last eight years. The figures are staggering.

--. The 2008 budget for the Capital Litigation Trust Fund is $16,332,553 -- $6,691,200 of which is earmarked for capital cases in Cook County alone.

-- With an allocation of $65,249,900 since the inception of the trust fund, Cook County has sent six men to death row. The County has actually spent $32,677,089.34, which is an average cost of $5,446,181 per death sentence obtained. Cook County has already spent $1,719,823.19 trying capital cases in 2008.

-- The 49 counties (excluding Cook) that have used the Capital Litigation Trust Fund have so far spent $20,076,940.63. 13 counties (excluding Cook) in Illinois have accounted for over 73% of this expenditure. Greater Illinois has sentenced seven (now eight) people to death row with this money, which is an average cost of $2,868,134 per death sentence obtained

-- The costs of the initial trial defense for those on death row varied from $10,627.50 (Laurence Lovejoy) to $2,041,895.65 (Cecil Sutherland).

-- Last May, Juan Luna was convicted in a Cook County courtroom of killing seven people. His appointed Counsel spent $941,331.60 in preparation for his trial defense.

-- The allocation of $148,944,735, in just eight years, has landed just 13 (at the completion of the study only 13 were on death row, now there are 14) individuals on death row. That is a cost of $11,457,287.31 ($10,638,909.64 – including Hanson) per death sentence obtained. Even more alarming, this does not include the salaries of prosecutors and public defenders, appeals costs, incarceration, or any portion of execution expenses in Illinois.

Copies of the study, complete with graphs and charts, source citations, and analysis, are available at the following website address:


"I think the fact that a governor can put a moratorium on death peanalty executions because he's worried about executing someone who's innocent is insane. I wonder what would happen if a governor--any governor, attempted to ban abortion. You say it's a different issue? I say abortion is the epitomy of murder because the life taken is innocent."

On the one hand, you say it's insane to be concerned about executing an innocent person, yet you apparently oppose abortion because it is taking the life of an innocent? Why not be consistent and oppose both abortion AND capital punishment?

Moderator Jim: That's exactly what I did in my column last week. Check it out. Just click on Jim Lynch on our home page

In reference to all comments I'd like to point out a comparison documented when our justice system was compared to China in the late 1990's. Let me preface my statement by saying I do not wish our government was like China but perhaps their justice system does prevent crime. They have seven times the population of people we have and yet one tenth the crime rate. That's because of this one simple fact. In China if you're sentenced to death and you go to death row--you are there for one week. They take you into the courtyard and shoot you in the head. Then --they bill your family for the bullets they used. No one is interested in whether these people are treated humanely--they took the lives of innocent people. The people on death row are not innocent and I believe we should afford them the same luxury they afforded their victims. They should have enough bread and water to survive. No TV or books or games. They should have to work everyday--until they die. If they get sick they should not receive healthcare and that way they would die even faster.
I find it incredibly odd that people have more of a problem with executing cold blooded murderers than they do with abortion--even into the third trimester. I think the fact that a governor can put a moratorium on death peanalty executions because he's worried about executing someone who's innocent is insane. I wonder what would happen if a governor--any governor, attempted to ban abortion. You say it's a different issue? I say abortion is the epitomy of murder because the life taken is innocent. The murderers--like Eric Hanson are guilty as sin.

"I have an idea for reducing the cost of execution prosecution vs. incarceration (previously posted by justice) limit appeals process to one appeal....give it your best shot..."

That would decrease the cost, but would also significantly increase the chance that we would execute the wrong person.

Stats can usually be skewed to support any argument.....I have an idea for reducing the cost of execution prosecution vs. incarceration (previously posted by justice) limit appeals process to one appeal....give it your best shot...Are you talking actual "bill-able dollar hours" or comparing the street value of legal hours spent by state's attorneys (& assts) who are paid a set state salary?.... refering to Mark's comments on Feb 28 @3:30pm Why is Michigan's murder rate an anomoly to other states of Vermont, Utah, Montana, Iowa, Maine, Wyoming, New Hampshire, N & S Dakota) ....why you ask?...can you say Detroit...

Who wants to continue serving up tax dollars for these guys to consume in the form of: 3 square meals a day, hair cuts, razor blades, hot showers, pillows, blankets etc...and to top it off, free legal advice while they supposedly rehabilitate and plan their appeals. We have let liberal judges, politicians and evangelical do-gooders get in the way of justice too long already here in Illinois. In Texas, if 2 or more eye witnesses saw you and DNA links you to the crime....you get to go to the front of the line...Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200.00....you get the T-pass express lane !!! Did you know Cook County has more lawyers than the entire country of Japan...

DNA tests now prove and/or rule out the guilty and innocent since Governor Ryan, our Nobel Peace Prize convicted felon, made his decision. Nobody wants the wrong person swingin' from the hangin' tree, or false confessions beatin out of prisoners, because that means the actual perpetrator is still out on the streets. If someone has one "brain-cramp" cause he lost his job or snapped during a domestic dispute, OK, let's try to rehab them and offer a second chance, but I'm tired of seeing repeat, convicted child-predators, rapists and killers back out on the streets again. If that makes me someone from the "stone age" than so be it....

Here's an idea. Judge Roy Bean, aka the Hanging Judge, simply and "cheaply" deterred crime by hanging the criminals on the courthouse square. While there might (and that would be a longer discussion)have been one or two sentenced to hang that were innocent (at least on that day), the hanging probably kept quite a few more from going into a life of crime. Wish we could say the same thing about today's society.

I don't mind a life in prison sentence, as long as it is really that. The problem is that 30 years from now, the scumbag will be paroled.

My humble opinion is based solely upon my own beliefs. I think life in prison is the greater punishment by far. Hanson can think about what he did each and every day for the rest of his miserable, pathetic life. Perhaps even solitary confinement for most of his waking hours would be appropriate.

Letting this sorry human being be executed is far too easy on him, so I say let him think about his crimes and the punishment for the rest of his life.

I don't know about Illinois, but most capital murder cases are extremely expensive (in terms of dollars) when compared to the cost of imprisoning an individual for the rest of his/her life. It is usually much cheaper on the taxpayers to imprison the person for life, rather than spending the additional millions on a capital murder case because of all the appeals that are allowed. One example would be Timothy McVeigh's trial. It would have cost about $20M to prosecute him and imprison him for life, but it cost well over $80M because the prosecutors sought the death penalty. Sentencing scum like McVeigh to rot in prison for life would not have cost taxpayers an extra $60M like that capital case did. I don't think making McVeigh into a $60M example was worth the additional cost.



Is there another web page that you are referring to where the study you reference is listed? I'm guessing that ten years is too short a period to effectively trend anything.

I'm guessing that the rise of drugs and gangs drives the overall murder rate. This has been true anywhere I have ever lived including foreign countries. If we have someone that is up to date on criminal justice reading the web site, I'm guessing that they can post the social, demographic and geographic data.

If you have a map or list that shows murder rates by counties, it may be more instructive. From looking at your web site, I'm guessing that states with no large urban areas and few minorities have less crime. Which is not exactly a revelation.


Presented with a 10-year study that looks at 50 states, you managed to find a few things that support your position. But you ignored the overwhelming evidence that contradicts you. That's called "cherry picking."

I wrote that states with the death penalty "tend to" have a higher murder rate. That's indisputable. The important piece of the study, the summary, indicates: "For 2006, the average Murder Rate of Death Penalty States was 5.9, while the average Murder Rate of States without the Death Penalty was 4.22."

Let's look at Illinois. The murder rate was 10.0 in 1996. Ryan imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in 2000. Did the murder rate skyrocket? No. Over the next five years, Illinois followed the national trend of declining murder rates. In 2006 it was down to 6.1 per 100,000. Hardly supports your idea of capital punishment as a way to prevent murder.

"Does the state have the right to take a human life?"

Do you mean a constitutional right? Then, the answer is yes, at least according to the Supreme Court. I don't think we should have capital punishment, though, as there is just no way to ensure that only the truly guilty are executed. Moreover, it costs more money to put a prisoner to death than it does to keep him in prison for life.

Anyone convicted beyond a reasonable doubt of taking the life of another human being (or in this case, multiple human beings) has lost their right to exist in a civilized society. This isn't about capital punishment acting as a deterrent! A swift and certain punishment at the end of a needle is all they should expect.

How much does it cost taxpayers to support someone who has been sentenced to "life without the possibility of parole"? Please don't even attempt to take the "long-term imprisonment is inhumane" position. That is an absolute insult to the victims of this despicable crime.


In the web site you refer to, Michigan is a top ten murder state even thought they have no death penalty according to your site.

How do you explain this anomaly?

Rounding out the lowest ten murder rates your chart shows that from highest to lowest: Vermont, Iowa, Utah, Montana, Maine, Wyoming, Hawaii, North Dakota, Maine, South Dakota and New Hampshire have the lowest murder rates. How does Michigan differ from these states that makes it more violent?

New Hampshire has the lowest murder rate and the death penalty according to your web site, how can that be?

Hanson is a miserable excuse of a human being. But killing him won't bring his victims back to life.

The states with the death penalty tend to have a higher murder rate than states that don't have one. Capital punishment does not work as a deterrent. It obviously does not save lives.


First of all, we are not in Kansas anymore Toto, Hanson will never be executed. So, this is really an academic exercise.

They do and don't do a lot of things in Europe, depending on which country or city you are talking about; I’m not sure we want to use one example from Europe as our legal model. Drugs are legal in some cities in Holland and not in others depending on what they want at Town Hall. Prostitution is either legal or not enforced in all of Europe; do we need brothels and hash parlors in Naperville to keep up with the Continentals? Perhaps a the sales revenue from drugs and prostitution could forestall a property tax increase and put the gangs out of the drug business, sort of two for one. Like the lottery, could prostitution fund the schools? Does anyone really own their own body if they can’t rent or sell it?

As to the assertion that there is little or no capital punishment in Europe, I still remember all of the Badder Meinhoff (sp) terrorists simultaneously hanging themselves in German prisons thus solving the problem of endless hijacking attempts aimed at freeing them. Car loads of terrorists explode in empty intersections more than random probability would predict. If they want you dead in Europe, you have a problem. Corporal punishment is the norm in most of Europe. See how long you can stand on a street corner in Europe while wearing a gang uniform before the police drag you into an alley.

I suggest that the real question is whether capitol punishment is effective?

Multiple repeat offenders are not uncommon in the US; if they were shot the first time, they would not kill the second time. Fewer victims. The state typically hates to spend the money to keep them in prison for very long. So, shoot the first time would be more fiscally conservative; And, if you argue that long-term imprisonment is inhumane as the founding fathers believed, could it also be socially liberal? Minimize the suffering?

Looking at it quantitatively, there was a course called the Economics of Crime and Punishment at University. I recall that the number that was put out was that every execution prevents 17 murders. I'm getting a little grey, so I don't know what the current numbers are. If executing people saves lives, which I believe it does, than yes the state should execute people to fulfill their first responsibility which is public safety.

In short, if executing Hanson prevents someone else from killing, then yes the state has a moral obligation to save lives.

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