Nat Hentoff's clear explanation of how capital punishment does not deter leads to a larger consideration of the American tradition of violence which began with the extirpation of the Indians and the management of slave revolts (See Howard Zinn's chapters in "A People's History of the United States").
Capital punishment and police overkill is but a variation of the lynch mentality which still prevails throughout American society. It is deplorable that neither Gore nor Bush had the intelligence or courage to face the sad fact that in America capital punishment is a strategy for pacifying the underclass.
Just as disparate coke/crack-cocaine sentencing patterns reveal an ingrained system of injustice towards the lower classes. Perhaps the most despicable act Clinton ever did was not messing around with Monica (she after all asked for that), it was his proudly and publicly going to Arkansas to supervise the execution of a retarded man. How revolting a way to run for President.
To put some first things first, in the hundred or so years when the courts, higher and lower, winked, say, at the abuses of violating the Fourteenth Amendment, was that judicial inactivism or activism of a particularly vicious sort? Do you deplore those justices "legislating" as much as you do ones who urge us to overcome traditional prejudices against abortion and homosexuality?
Given that America began its legal odyssey committing genocide on the Indians and enslaving the blacks, it is inevitable that if we are ever to live up to our putative ideals, me must both legislate more humanely and give as much scope to judicial interpretation as our ancestors didn't.
I suggest your outraged symposiasts read Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" and then tell me whether it was conservatives or liberals who introduced mendacity into American political dialogue.