Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

May 17, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Death Penalty


  • This week, the Arizona Supreme Court will consider issuing a death warrant for a man convicted of killing a 13-year-old girl in 1984. Join us for a discussion about the death penalty with Timothy La Sota, a former Maricopa County prosecutor who is now chief of staff for the Scottsdale mayor, and Dan Peitzmeyer, vice president of Arizona Death Penalty Forum.
Guests:
  • Timothy La Sota - Former Maricopa County prosecutor
  • Dan Peitzmeyer - Vice President, Arizona Death Penalty Forum
Category: Law   |   Keywords: death penality, Arizona Death Penalty Forum,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
On Thursday, the state supreme court is scheduled to consider issuing death warrants for two Arizona men convicted of murdering young girls more than two decades ago. Here to share their very different views on the death penalty is Tim La Sota, a former special-assistant Maricopa county attorney who now serves as a special assistant to the mayor of Scottsdale. And also here is Dan Peitzmeyer, vice president of the Arizona Death Penalty Forum, an organization that seeks to abolish capital punishment. Good to have you both here. Thank you for joining us.

Tim La Sota:
Thank you.

Dan Peitzmeyer:
Thank you, Ted.

Ted Simons:
Let's start with Donald Beattie, a name that folks will remember why is it so important he be put to death?

Tim La Sota:
Great, yes. In fact, he is one of the poster child, if you will, for the death penalty. He was a child molester and then unfortunately, Christianne Fornoff was collecting for her newspaper in her apartment complex, he took her, raped her and dumped her in a dumpster. It is 26 years we've waited for justice in this case. Here is a guy that molested his own daughter, tried to sell his own kid before this happened and tragically he murdered 13-year-old Christianne Fornoff. If you could just -- if there were two words that could justify it would be Donald Beattie.

Ted Simons:
Why should Donald Beattie not receive the ultimate punishment?

Dan Peitzmeyer:
I don't think anyone needs to experience capital punishment. Murder does not justify murder. It is not a question of what feels good or revenge or vengeance, it is a question of public policy issue system. Is this what we want to spend our tax dollars on? Capital punishment costs far, far more than life in prison without parole. We taxpayers are not getting sufficient bang for our dollars; it is a waste of money.

Ted Simons:
It's a waste of money.

Tim La Sota:
Under the current system it costs far too much but that's because someone like Donald Beattie has been able to spend 26 years on death row, appeal after appeal after appeal in front of the, unfortunately, 9th circuit which has been particularly unwilling to allow justice to move forward. He's been on there, 25 years on death row, 26 years from his crime and he has admitted to the crime. It does cost too much money but that's not an argument for it. In fact, that is an argument we get death penalty opponents who like to see it cost that much so they can say it costs too much.

Ted Simons:
Why not spend more money, more time in order to get this particular punishment right?

Dan Peitzmeyer:
It's not effective; it's not a deterrent. If you ask police chiefs how would you like to spend this money, they would rather have the money to put policemen on the street, get more boots on the street, open up cold cases. The death penalty does not protect us. States which do not have the death penalty have a lower murder rate than states which do have the death penalty.

Ted Simons:
The death penalty does not protect us. Do you agree?

Tim La Sota:
I absolutely disagree. Let me give you an example how the death penalty could have protected us. Randy Greenawalt was executed in 1997, and unfortunately, it came too late because he was already in prison for murder and escaped with the notorious Gary Tison Gang and they got out and murdered five more people. That is one example of who the death penalty would have protected us from. The death penalty has been shown in study after study to be a deterrent. If you actually have a death penalty and use it on occasion, it will deter some of these monsters out there from killing other people.

Ted Simons:
It would seem as though it is a deterrent. You're saying it is not?

Dan Peitzmeyer:
It deters the individual who is executed; it does not deter other criminals. People do not consider the crime when they execute the crime.

Ted Simons:
Lethal injection. You consider it cruel and unusual punishment. Explain.

Dan Peitzmeyer:
It has proven to be cruel and unusual in Ohio when they spent five hours trying to execute a convict and then had to return him to his cell. It's not as humane as what's done to animals in vet's clinics.

Ted Simons:
The idea of lethal injection as cruel and unusual.

Tim La Sota:
Well, Ted, I think that's laughable. A needle, consider we have John Young on death row; he burned his young daughter to death. The Supreme Court ruled even with some of the more liberal-leaning justices saying lethal injection not cruel and unusual punishment.

Ted Simons:
There is a line of thinking that says even if you don't think capital punishment is cruel, even if it is more money, more time, there is still a sense of justice that society needs to experience when the Donald Beatties and Shawn Grells and these sorts of folks do these heinous crimes and society needs to see them die for these crimes. Do you agree?

Dan Peitzmeyer:
No, I don't. And I don't disagree with Tim in these are miserable crimes and the term he uses, monsters. These are not people I want as neighbors, but I don't feel that killing them is a satisfactory solution for society. As I said, it's public policy. You know, we are the only first world nation that executes. Who do we want to be aligned with, the access of evil?

Ted Simons:
I think China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the only other countries that execute more than us. What does that say about us?

Tim La Sota:
I think the public here simply supports the death penalty because we realize that some crimes are so awful that they just justify the death penalty. You know, I mean, there's just no question that, as you said before, what if we are to get our hands on Osama Bin Laden. I mean the notion that after the 3,000 lives he took in September 11, the notion there is any other punishment that is fitting for him, let's go back to Adolph Hitler, say we would have captured him alive, for people like them, there is only one appropriate punishment and the others simply fall short.

Ted Simons:
How do you respond to that?

Dan Peitzmeyer:
I don't deny it is a feel-good solution. They took a life, they took 3,000 lives, we’re going to take their life. I don't think it's the solution. 150 years ago, a human being could own another human being. 90 years ago, women couldn't vote. 50 years ago, schools were segregated. That was all right. It was legal, but it wasn't right.

Ted Simons:
Are you looking at capital punishment from a public policy perspective as much as a moral perspective? I mean, is it ever right to take a life?

Dan Peitzmeyer:
Speaking only for myself, I think not. But I think the argument to abolish the death penalty has to be looked at from a public policy issue.

Ted Simons:
The idea of taking a life, there's a lot of morality, a lot of religions look at it in a variety of ways. How do you get past that and say we need to end a life here? We need to coldly and calculatedly take a life.

Tim La Sota:
It's not something done cavalierly. There is years of appeals and everyone facing the death penalty gets two attorneys assigned to them and the attorneys, there is lots of review to make sure the attorneys are competent, but the bottom line in this world, sometimes it is necessary to take other people's lives. Look at wartime. We have obviously found the need in order to defend our interests, to defend liberty, to defend freedom we have had to kill other people to do it and it is an unfortunate reality but one we live in.

Ted Simons:
We have to stop it there. Thank you for being here.

Tim La Sota:
Thank you.

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