After years and years of writing and lecturing about the death penalty, as well as protesting it, I’ve finally caught the attention of noted death penalty troll Dudley Sharp.
In fact, I’m willing to bet he’ll comment on this post before the day is out.
Mr. Sharp owns or is somehow affiliated with just about every domain name that a high school student who was writing a term paper about the death penalty would visit: ProDeathPenalty.com; MurderVictims.com; JusticeForAll.net; ProDPinNC.com; and HomicideSurvivors.com
Sharp doesn’t seem to have any special resources that qualify him to do the work he does; he doesn’t actually do any research of his own on the death penalty. He’s not a political scientist, criminologist, economist, or sociologist, nor does he seem to be an expert on public policy, human behavior, crime, or victimization.
His full-time job, as far as I can tell, is to search the internet for virtually any mention of the death penalty and then extensively comment on the article, blog post, op-ed, or photoset in question. His comments are always pretty much the same variation on this theme (which makes sense since he’s just copying and pasting over and over and over): “The author of these facts is just repeating lies that (s)he read somewhere on the internet. Here are ten links to my own several websites with different facts. My facts are all true.”
Sharp took this tack when I wrote a piece that questioned the studies that tout some magical deterrent effect of the death penalty in a recent blog post. Here is the crux of his complaint (spaced out across four link-filled comments on the same article):
The Running Chcken criticism of Mr. Nold, is guilty of doing what it accuses Mr. Nold.
The RC blindly accepts the 142 “exonerated” when these numbers have been part of a well known fraud, for over a decade.
On deterrence, all of the criticism of the deterrence studies has either been rebutted or will be.
There is a class of criticism which the deterrence authors will not waste their time criticizing….
There is zero evidence that the death penalty deters none. I fact, no credible person can say the death penalty deters none.
The only issue is how much does it deter. An answer for which there will never be a satisfactory answer.
My reply was, I think, fairly straightforward:
The 142 innocents claim was Mr. Nold’s, as were the websites where I found the papers that stood against Mr. Nold’s claims. I mentioned this in my response to Mr. Nold’s op-ed. Perhaps you missed that. What’s more, each of the papers I quote is cited at the link I (and Mr. Nold) provide. In your blog posts, there are no citations and thus no way to access the papers you quote.
Your work is known to me; you have the remarkable ability to comment on every single piece on the internet that mentiones “capital punishment” or “death penalty” and your responses are always exactly the same: “I, Dudley Sharp, have concluded that this is an obvious fact based on my own knowledge.” Despite the impressive amount of time you must devote to this trolling of the internet, I remain unconvinced by you and the three people whose work you believe is authoritative on deterrence. Instead, I’ll throw my lot in with all those who caution the abuse of statistics to make a public policy point. Their work suggests that the only answer we can reliably give on the deterrence question is, “We just don’t know for sure.” With the conclusion, you could continue to support the death penalty and I could continue to oppose it since I’m sure we both have plenty of other reasons for our positions. And that way we’re not saying, as you are, that the statistics clearly prove something that, at this point, they clearly do not.
Amazingly, Sharp did not reply.
Instead, he sent me (and, apparently, every faculty member of the Nebraska College of Law, all of Nebraska’s elected officials, members of the Nebraska media, and the Nebraska County Attorneys Association) four unsolicited email messages chock full of quotes from the Old Testament and philosophers like John Locke, links to posts on his various websites, and a bunch of desperate claims of the sort that people who love executions cling to. Here’s one of my favorites:
Double digit annual executions stopped in the US in 1964 and resumed in 1984.
During that period, murders increased by 100%
murders in 1964 9,360
murders in 1984 18,670
For Sharp, the only possible explanation is not enough use of the death penalty. Apparently population size remained constant over that twenty year time period and nothing of sociological significance took place.
Amazingly, Sharp isn’t embarrassed by this sort of ridiculous inference. In fact, he seems proud of it, posting it all over the internet and sending it to hundreds of individuals in states that are considering death penalty repeal. I suspect he actually thinks that murder rates when up because double digit annual executions weren’t taking place. I also suspect that nothing will ever convince him otherwise.
Happily, Sharp is losing. That’s why he’s been so aggressively trolling the internet for the past five or six years. The number of people who think he’s right about any of his claims — that innocent people pretty much never get sentenced to death; that the death penalty deters tons of murderers; that Christians should all obviously support the death penalty; that the death penalty is less expensive than life imprisonment; and a host of other arguments that don’t withstand even casual scrutiny — is in sharp decline. That’s why he needs to keep spamming people with links to his web empire of junk statistics. And that’s why state legislature after state legislature keeps voting for repeal.
The death penalty doesn’t work; it’s terrible public policy and it’s a moral morass. All over the world, people are coming around to this way of thinking, slowly but surely, and no amount of internet trolling is going to convince them otherwise.
If you check the comments below, in an hour or two I’m sure Mr. Sharp will tell you why I’m lying to you. Maybe he’ll even explain the ridiculous 1964-1984 murder rate stat that I pulled from his email to me … though I’m sure he’ll do so with a link to some more nonsense on one of his many websites.