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mind is the man who walked into a bank out here in Nebraska, robbed it and shot three people lying on the floor.
How is the public to be protected from the possibility, the probability, that a life sentence will only mean a few years? What is your answer to those people?
Reverend HALE. No. 1, research has indicated that society is amply protected by a sentence of life imprisonment. Research has also indicated that a very small percentage of persons who have been paroled have repeated crime.
In answer to a part of the first statement that you made, we still have to reckon with the fact of the infallibility of human beings, and it is a tremendous risk to kill a man and knowing that the judge and the jury might be wrong.
Mr. PAISLEY. There are pretty good safeguards, aren't there, the jury, the Governor, and the President. Doesn't the Governor always have the record before him? Undoubtedly they all conscientiously read the record. Isn't that a pretty good safeguard that it is very unlikely that an innocent man is going to be executed?
Reverend HALE. But the records are recorded by fallible men who are subject to making wrong judgments, making wrong decisions. The record also indicates that most of the people who are executed are poor people who do not have the means to employ the best lawyers, the best technicians to defend them. So many times you might not have all of the facts brought out.
There is also the possibility of having prejudiced persons sitting on the jury.
Mr. PAISLEY. I have one other question that I will ask you now. Should there be written into this bill any restrictions on the parole boards, or that a life sentence should consist of at least a certain number of years, something like that? Would you favor that?
Reverend HALE. I would prefer that we seek to strengthen the rehabilitation efforts in the institution. It is recorded that many people, most people who commit murders are mentally or emotionally disturbed. They are sick. They don't need to be killed. They need to be held.
Mr. PAISLEY. You feel, then, that the matters of parole can safely be left to the Federal parole board? This would be a Federal statute. It wouldn't apply to the States.
Reverend HALE. I believe so.
Mr. PAISLEY. Would you favor the jury, if it recommends mercy in a capital case, fixing a number of years for the man accused? Would you favor that?
Reverend HALE. I am not sure. I am not sure whether I do or not.
Mr. PAISLEY. Do you happen to know, Reverend Hale, what the effect of the so-called Lindbergh law was? You remember when the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped and murdered?
Reverend HALE. Yes.
Mr. PAISLEY. And it was made a capital offense in the Federal court system?
Reverend HALE. I know something about it.
Mr. PAISLEY. To kidnap and kill or do bodily harm on the victim. Do you happen to know whether it has had any effect as a deterrent? Reverend HALE. No; it did not serve as a deterrent.
Mr. PAISLEY. What is that?
Reverend HALE. It did not serve as a deterrent.
Mr. PAISLEY. It did not? You don't think it did?
Mr. PAISLEY. I have nothing further.
Senator HART. Reverend Hale, thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF HON. G. MENNEN WILLIAMS, FORMER GOVERNOR
Mr. WILLIAMS. Thank you very much.
Senator HART. Governor, let me explain to you and to other witnesses who have prepared statements, the statements will be printed in the record in full as though given in full, and if as a witness goes along there is any amplification or summation that he cares to make, feel free to do it.
Mr. WILLIAMS. Thank you very much.
My statement is very brief. I am not what you might call an expert witness, but I will give you a few reactions of my own.
I thought it would be particularly useful to give you my reactions as of the time I was Governor, and so I have quoted extensively from a telegram that I sent to California at that time when they were considering revising their law, and I have attached that to the statement. As you have indicated, I was the Governor of Michigan from 1949 to 1960, and I am here to testify in favor of abolishing the death penalty.
Michigan was the first State to abolish the death penalty and did so in 1846. The people of Michigan have been satisfied that they took the right step.
For example, the restoration of the death penalty was defeated 352,594 to 269,538 in a 1931 popular referendum.
During the 12 years that I was Governor, from 1949 to 1960, there was no real effort to restore the death penalty. On March 8, 1960, I was
able to telegraph an inquiring California State senator, "No bills on this subject have been introduced in recent legislative session."
In my mind there are two principal arguments in favor of abolishing the death penalty. One, there is no good evidence that the death penalty deters crime.
Two, because of human fallibility, the death penalty permits the possibility that some innocent people can be executed along with the guilty.
As to the first, the primitive law of retaliation, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, has generally been discarded as outmoded.
For example, we no longer chop off a man's hand for theft. However, the death penalty has been retained on the theory that it deters murder. The fact of the matter is, however, that there is no good evidence that the death penalty acts to deter homicide.
In the above-mentioned telegram to the California senator while I was Governor, I responded to his question, "Has absence of death penalty in any way increased danger to the public safety," as follows:
"Statistics on capital offenses in this and other States show no correlation with death penalty or its abolition and there is no evidence that its abolition in Michigan has in any way endangered public safety."
Chairman Hart, in your statement introducing the bill to abolish the death penalty, you pointed out that the States not having the death penalty by and large had fewer capital crimes than those which had capital punishment in recent years as well as at the time I was Governor.
In passing, in response to the California State senator's question, "Does absence of death penalty create greater security problems in prisons," I replied:
"As a group, our lifers are better behaved than any other inmates. Our corrections deputy director advises lack of death penalty does not create any security problem."
As to the second point, that the death penalty permits the possibility of legal execution of innocent persons, may I again refer to my California telegram. In it I said:
"In recent years, several Michigan men convicted of capital offenses and stentenced to life have later been released because of substantial doubt as to guilt. Had they been executed, no power on earth could have eased society's guilt in these cases."
In conclusion, then, while there are many supporting arguments, such as the trend among most European and Latin American countries against the death penalty, as I renew my own personal reactions when I was Governor, and my study of the arguments today, I feel that the case against continuing the death penalty is more than adequately made by the two arguments.
First, the death penalty survives the outmoded "an eye for an eye" system of justice only on the assumption that it deters crime, whereas in fact there is no evidence that it does.
And second, the existence of a death penalty makes the execution of innocent people possible.
Therefore I would hope and recommend that this committee will in turn recommend that the death penalty be abolished.
Senator HART. Thank you, Governor.
I may be the only one in the room who can testify of my own knowledge that you did more than just get periodic monthly reports from penal institutions in Michigan, but went into them and spent an enormous amount of time in attempting to upgrade, not alone the institutions themselves, but the rehabilitation efforts that are so critically important. I may be the only one here to remember that once when you visited an institution you were kidnapped by inmates. You, I am sure, recall that incident. Do you think that it would not have occurred if Michigan had capital punishment on the books?
Mr. WILLIAMS. I don't really think it would have made any difference. One of the would-be kidnappers was called Crazy Jack and he was true to his name. He was demented. The other one, the principal one, thought only that this was a means of escape. He hoped to use the Governor as a shield to get out of the prison and get away.
I am sure that he was motivated by only one thought and that was escape, and I am sure that he wouldn't have been deterred by the fact that there was a death penalty.
Senator HART. Do you recall the circumstances that gave rise to the referendum vote in 1931 in Michigan? I do not.
Mr. WILLIAMS. No, I am not sure, but in order to respond to the Honorable Fred Farr, the State senator in California, we had research done, and our colleague Alfred Fitt, now in the Defense Department as Under Secretary, I believe researched this out, and presented these facts.
Senator HART. I think I should comment on the record that as I look at this telegram sent by the Governor of Michigan, G. Mennen Williams, to the Honorable Fred Farr, State senator, it is a rather long telegram, and up at the top under the Western Union code I see that it was sent collect.
Mr. WILLIAMS. That was just one more evidence of our economical operations.
Senator HART. I wanted to make that point.
Mr. WILLIAMS. Thank you. I think so long as you made reference to this telegram, the second point might be brought out in testimony as the previous witness touched upon it, and apparently in the questions of counsel the idea is important, and that is in response to his question about the police, we replied:
"No evidence whatsoever that police endangered by lack of capital punishment."
Senator HART. Mr. Paisley.
Mr. PAISLEY. Governor, you probably don't remember it, but you and I were coworkers in World War II.
Mr. WILLIAMS. Well, that is something that one presidential candidate has forgotten, that he was a colleague also. Mr. PAISLEY. I remember you quite well.
Mr. WILLIAMS. Thank you, sir.
Mr. PAISLEY. I just thought I would mention that.
Can you tell us, Governor, what the average time served by lifers in Michigan is?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Let me begin to testify on that with this observation. When I became Governor, we had the problem of setting up a policy for executive clemency, and in Michigan it only went to those who were in for life.
We discovered that previous Governors, and my memory may be a little faulty but it is pretty close, during the course of a year probably released only five to 10 people. I think one Governor went so far as to release 30.
We decided that we would release them on the basis of what we thought was justice, and we didn't get too high at it. My recollectionSenator Hart, who was legal adviser to me may have a better memory than I—I think it was 10 to 20. It wasn't higher than that. And as a consequence, I would recollect that most of the people had been in 20 to 30 years, and most of the people were rather elderly by the time that they moved out.
Mr. PAISLEY. I think most people agree that the death penalty is not a deterrent, but so many people seem to worry about the fact that these vicious killers go around killing people, raping little girls and murdering them, and such crimes as that, and that they will soon be out on the streets again, and they are worried about it. Of course, the vote in Michigan was in 1931. Probably the percentage, if it were held today, would be more in favor of abolishing the death penalty. But now a lot of people are worried about it. What is your answer to those who oppose this bill on this ground?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Well, my best answer would lie in the neighboring State of Ohio, because when my wife went down there to visit Jane Lausche when Senator Lausche was Governor, I discovered that the inmates who were serving in the governor's mansion, many of them were murderers, and so I gather that they had their choice of who they were going to have, they wouldn't pick that kind of person if they had fear about them.
I would say that obviously many people would have an instinctive reaction against at least a recent murderer being turned loose, but the statistics and the facts of the matter are that the number who repeat is exceedingly small, and I think that with a reasonable system of release, and as I listened to your questioning of the former witness, it sounded as though it was just going through a revolving door, you go in and the next day you come out, whereas, as my testimony indicated as far as Michigan was concerned it was 20 or 30 years, I think that the danger from the former murderer is probably not greater but less than from the average run of the mill citizen you might run into under equal circumstances.
Mr. PAISLEY. You see no point then in amending this bill to place any restrictions on parole boards? You feel that the parole boards can adequately protect the public from this fear.
Mr. WILLIAMS. I feel that the parole board would feel a responsibility, and not only the parole board but the chief executive who appointed the parole board would feel that responsibility, and I would imagine that any policy adopted to begin with at least would be most conservative until they had had a favorable experience, and so I think