Jacoby on capital punishment

Speaking of Jeff Jacoby, he offers this point on the recently-revived capital punishment debate:

“This week the Justice Department released ‘Capital Punishment 2001,’ its latest annual survey of death penalty statistics. … It is striking that a controversy so large revolves around numbers so small. The death penalty is available in 38 states and the federal system, yet only 66 convicted killers were executed in the United States last year. That was fewer than the 85 executed in 2000, which in turn was fewer than the 98 executed in 1999.

“… But whatever else might be said about these numbers, they are eclipsed by a far larger and more heartbreaking number, one not mentioned in the Justice Department’s report: the number of murder victims. In 2001, 15,980 Americans lost their lives to murder–a death toll hundreds of times greater than the small body count of executed murderers. Year after year, the number of inmates put to death by the state–usually painlessly and after years of due process–adds up to a minuscule fraction of the number of Americans purposely shot, beaten, strangled, knifed, poisoned, burned, drowned, hanged, and tortured to death by murderers.”