I had to stifle an exultant cry of solidarity with Professor Berman when I read his blistering commentary in this post today about the just-released Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin on state felony sentencing, and, more specifically, the clear disparity in emphasis between the death penalty and more "prosaic" sentencing issues by the media, the academy, and the general public.
From my own vantage point here in New Jersey, where our death row is populated by nine -- that's it, folks, nine --profoundly repellent specimens of inhumanity and the general prison population is filled to bursting with thousands of non-violent drug offenders (the highest percentage in the USA, mind you), the imbalance referenced by Professor Berman is as acute as it disheartening.
I'm still amazed: a state commission transparently front-loaded with opponents of capital punishment issues a predictable and not-particularly illuminating report calling for the abolition of the death penalty in NJ (legislation to effectuate the report's recommendation was long ago tabled - it is an election year, after all) and the world stops.
Yet not one news outlet in NJ saw fit to cover (or carry the AP story of) the more recent and far more shocking (and, to my knowledge, undisputed) findings of The Sentencing Project regarding the state's well-known racial disparity between white and black inmates.
So good for you, Professor. And stand tough when the death penalty zealots inevitably come out of the woodwork to assail you as a heartless bastard. We know better.