« PreviousContinue »
The data secured for this study from the commitment records consisted of the number (Reg. No.), name, and date for those committed for manslaughter and murder who were being held for inquest by the grand jury, and if indicted, to be tried in Superior Court.
The fiscal year of July 1 to June 30 used by the Department of Correction, the new name as of July 8, 1964, was also adopted in this analysis. The period, therefore, covers a ten-year period; namely, July 1, 1956, to June 30, 1966.
The number of the combination murder-suicides was not included in this study since it was difficult to obtain this information. These cases are apparently very rare. Furthermore, the law regarding the death penalty for murder would have no deterrent effect on a person who would end someone else's life as well as his
The study does not involve itself with unsolved murders, only to indicate that during July 1, 1956, to February 9, 1966, there were seven homicides in Wilmington in which the offender has not been determined."
This study deals with the participants involved in a homicide or homicides. Other studies may analyze the homicide events or the number of victims who have died. In this research, every participant who was charged and committed was included, whether the homicide event consisted of one participant and one victim, one participant and more than one victim, more than one participant involving only one victim, or possibly more than one participant and more than one victim.
The participants, therefore, who have the potential of being charged, committed, tried and sentenced to die as guilty of first degree murder are a primary concern for this study.
The date of commitment is the date which is used in this study and not the date of the homicide event. The date of commitment may coincide with the date of the offense or any time thereafter. In most cases the person involved is apprehended, charged, and committed within a short time following the homicide.
In examining the commitment record sheets of the Delaware Department of Correction, the inmates' number, name, date of commitment for those who were committed for manslaughter and murder were recorded. Table I discloses an annual accounting of the number who were originally charged with manslaughter or murder.
After a separate list of those charged with manslaughter was made and another for murder was listed, a careful check was made to eliminate duplication. For example, when a person was charged and committed to the Sussex Correctional Institution for murder and given a "S" number, ("S" for Sussex) and three days later was recommitted to the New Castle Correctional Institution with a new "N" number, ("N" for New Castle) the original commitment would be used and not the second.
In a similar manner, when a person who was charged and committed to prison for murder and later was indicted by the grand jury and recommitted on a manslaughter charge, only the murder charge was used.
Since this study is concerned with the only crime now punishable by death; namely, murder in the first degree, a further analysis will be made of the figures regarding murder and not manslaughter. The annual number of manslaughter commitments in Table I are included only for comparison purposes.
TABLE 1.-NUMBER OF COMMITMENTS TO DELAWARE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTIONS FOR MANSLAUGHTER AND MURDER
Table II indicates a breakdown of those who have been originally committed to one of the three correctional institutions on a charge of murder according to the county in which the homicide took place.
TABLE II.-NUMBER OF COMMITMENTS TO DELAWARE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTIONS FOR MURDER
Note: The population of the 3 counties for the 1950 and 1960 census is shown in table III. TABLE III.-1950 AND 1960 POPULATION OF DELAWARE COUNTIES AND POPULATION PERCENTAGE INCREASE
1 Bulletin Almanac, 1959, (Philadelphia, the Evening and Sunday Bulletin, 1960) p. 183. 2 Edwin D. Goldfield, director, County and City Data Book, 1962 (Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office, 1962) p. 52. 3 lbid.
The estimated population as of July 1, 1956, for the State of Delaware was 402,000 19 and for July 1, 1965, 505,000.20
Table IV reveals a consistent comparison of the percentage of the total number of murder commitments during 1956 to 1966 with the population percentage for each county as of 1950 and 1960.
TABLE IV. COMPARISON OF PERCENTAGE OF MURDER COMMITMENTS BY COUNTIES DURING 1956 AND 1966 WITH PERCENTAGE OF THE 1950 AND 1960 POPULATION
To test the three hypotheses, the three mean or average number of participants committed to the Delaware Correctional Institutions each year will be used. The annual rate for the ten-year period under study is 17.1. This figure was arrived by dividing the total number of murder commitments of 171 by 10, the number of years.
If the three hypotheses were confirmed by this study, the results should indicate that a higher than 17.1 annual rate of murder commitments would occur during the abolition period than before or after.
10 Bulletin Almanac, 1959, op. cit., p. 183.
20 Bulletin Almanac, 1966 (Philadelphia, The Evening and Sunday Bulletin, 1967), p. 202.
TABLE V.-ANNUAL RATE OF MURDER COMMITMENTS BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER ABOLITION OF THE DEATH
During the 21 months before abolition, 40 murder commitments occurred or a rate of 22.8 per year, 5.7 above the 10 year rate of 17.1. The annual rate prior to abolition was also 9.0 higher than the rate during abolition (22.8-13.8-9.0). The first hypothesis is therefore unconfirmed.
The 44.5 months during abolition involved 51 participants or an averge of 13.8 murder commitments or 3.3 below the 10 year rate. The second hypothesis is likewise unconfirmed.
During the 54.5 months after the restoration of the death penalty, 80 murder commitments occurred or a rate of 17.5 per year, .4 per year higher than the 10 year rate and 3.7 higher than the rate during abolition (17.5-13.8-3.7). The third hypothesis which states that the annual rate of those charged and committed for murder after restoration would be less than the annual rate during abolition is also not confirmed.
The restoration of the death penalty to deter murder cannot be supported by this study.
From the study made by Judge Cobin and this research, it appears that the restoration of the death penalty occurred primarily as a reaction to several incidents when persons of the out-group committed brutal murders to respectable citizens of the in-group and not because of the increase of the rate of murders committed in the state of Delaware during abolition.
The adjudication of the 171 persons who were originally charged and committed for murder is found in Table VI.
TABLE VI.-ADJUDICATION OF PERSONS COMMITTED TO DELAWARE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTIONS FOR MURDER, JULY 1, 1956-JUNE 30, 1966 1
1 From analysis of commitment records and sheets compiled by Records and Statistics of the Department of Corrections, State of Delaware.
As of June 30, 1966, of the 171 murder commitments, nine or 5.3% were found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced; seven for life imprisonment and two to death. The two who were sentenced to die by hanging have had stays of execution since May 13, 1965, in the first case and since March 18, 1966 in the second.
It is rather significant that out of the 171 murder commitments, 26 or 15.2% were convicted and sentenced for first or second degree murder to life imprisonment or death, 10 or 5.9% were awaiting trial or committed to the Department of Mental Health, while 135 or 78.9% were disposed of in a number of possible
ways; not being indicted, acquitted, reduction to a lesser charge such as manslaughter or dismissal due to defendant's death.
Table VII describes the length of time from the date of commitment to the date of sentence for the 26 who were convicted on the first and second degree murder charges and sentenced to death and life imprisonment.
TABLE VII.-LENGTH OF TIME HELD FOR 26 MURDER COMMITMENTS FROM DATE OF COMMITMENT UNTIL DATE OF SENTENCE, JULY 1, 1956, TO JUNE 30, 1966
Of the 26 sentenced on a murder charge, 17 or 65.4% were convicted of murder in the second degree and sentenced to life imprisonment. The mean or average time held in prison from the date of commitment to the date of the sentence was 201.7 days or 6.6 months.
The seven or 26.9% who were sentenced to life imprisonment for the first degree murder spent an average 250.14 days or 8.2 months in detention awaiting
The two who were convicted to die by hanging for murder in the first degree served an average length of 352 days or 11.1 months before being sentenced. From Table VII two apparent conclusions can be reached. In this study, the greater the severity of the sentence, the fewer the number of inmates involved. This can be seen by noting that there were 17 (65.4%) sentenced with second degree murder and life imprisonment, seven (26.9%) with first degree and life imprisonment and two (7.7%) were sentenced to die for murder in the first degree.
The second observation is that the greater the severity of the sentence, the greater the average length of time spent in detention from the date of commitment to the date of sentence. The 17 second degree murder-life commitments spent an average of 6.6 months, the seven first degree murder-life commitments spent an average of 8.2 months, and the two first degree murder-death commitments spent an average of 11.1 months in detention awaiting trial and sentence.
A question may be raised as to whether the two men, Norman B. Parson and Thorton A. Jenkins sentenced to die, will ever be executed because of the present stays of executions and retrials. A brief summary of both cases may give credence to this query.
On February 1, 1964, Norman B. Parson, a 24-year-old Negro male trash collector, was committed to Sussex County Correctional Institution (S13007) on the charge of the murder in a sexual assault of a 16-year-old white female who was babysitting when the homicide occurred. After the indictment of the murder
in the first degree, the trial was held in Superior Court. On January 19, 1965, the petit jury returned a verdict of guilty of the charge. On May 13, 1965, Parson was sentenced by the trial judge to death by hanging to take place on July 16, 1965. However, a stay of execution was ordered by the judge on the same day of the sentencing, May 13, 1965.
An appeal by Parson's attorneys to the State Supreme Court has been rejected and the United States Supreme Court has refused to review the case. However, on June 1, 1967, the attorney general's office indicated that they will not oppose a request by Parson's attorneys to ask the court to order an examination to determine whether Parson is mentally capable of assisting in a habeas corpus petition for his release.22
On March 18, 1965, Thorton A. Jenkins, a 38-year-old Negro male, and Clifford Warner, a 34-year-old Negro male were committed to the New Castle Correctional Institution (Jenkins, N29989 and Warner, N29987) on a charge of the murder by beating of a white night watchman in a junkyard in Wilmington, of burglary, and of night prowling. Both men were indicated by the grand jury on two counts, murder in the first degree and burglary in the fourth degree. On January 13, 1966, the petit jury returned a verdict of guilty for Jenkins of murder in the first degree with the recommendation of mercy and guilty of burglary in the fourth degree.
Although the jury recommended mercy, on March 18, 1966, the trial judge disregarded the recommendation and sentenced Jenkins to death by hanging for the first degree murder conviction and to five years imprisonment for the burglary conviction. The date of execution was set as April 15, 1966; however, on March 28, 1966, a stay of execution was ordered by the Supreme Court pending a review of the case.
Warner was sentenced to life imprisonment for the second degree murder conviction and to five years imprisonment on the burglary conviction.
On March 27, 1967, the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware after reviewing these two cases upon appeals from Supreme Court judgments of conviction of burglary and murder, reversed the murder convictions but affirmed the burglary convictions.
Apparently Jenkins will not be executed nor will Warner serve a life sentence unless a retrial and new convictions are instituted.
The main purpose of this study was to determine if in the State of Delaware, from the analysis of those committed to one of the three correctional institutions on a murder charge during a ten year period, that a decrease in the rate of criminal homicides would occur after restoration of the death penalty than during its abolition. This conclusion was not confirmed. The rate of murder commitments was higher before and after the abolition period.
This study supports the position of those who favor abolition of the death penalty that the presence of the death penalty does not serve as a deterrent to criminal homicide.
One wonders if the State of Delaware will ever have to prepare the gallows for another hanging after 20 years of nonuse. Those convicted of murder received a sentence of life imprisonment with the exception of the two men sentenced to die. One of these two men has had his conviction reversed and the other has had delays due to various court actions.
In conclusion, this study tends to verify the statement of Professor Thorsten Sellin regarding capital punishment, "It is an archaic custom of primitive origin that has disappeared in most civilized countries and is withering away in the rest.'
Bedau, Hugo A. (ed.). The Death Penalty in America. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1964.
Bradner, I. M. H., Legal Execution in Delaware. A mimeographed report distributed by the Correctional Council of Delaware, Inc., 1956.
22 Morning News, Wilmington, Del., June 2, 1967, p. 16.
23 See page 4 regarding the law about the recommendation of mercy for the first degree murder conviction, footnote 13.
24 Sellin, op. cit., p. 253.