31 December 2013

Executions in the US--some statistics

As the end of the calendar year is (by convention) approaching, let us take a look at some numbers on the number of executions by death penalty in the US, the only western world country in the top 5 hit list for executions. Those countries are: China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the USA.

I collected some data from a prosecuting attorney's site, from the Texas Executions Information Center, and from the Death Penalty Information Center, and made a few plots. Here they are:

Executions were quite low before the 80s. At some point, they started picking up, and, in the 90s, they sky-rocketed. In the 00s they went down a bit.

Texas remains the champion, thanks, in part, the the Texas ex-governor (and then president of the US) George W Bush.

Some times, the wrong person is executed, as, for example, last year in Texas. In fact, the largest number of provably wrongful executions have taken place in Texas. (Not surprisingly, given the zeal they show in the subject of executions.) For a comparison, in the UK, a person called Timothy Evans was wrongfully executed in 1950. This played a major role in the abolishion of capital punishment in the UK in 1965. In the US, by comparison, wrongful executions have not caused any change in the law.

"Bush Candidacy Puts Focus on Executions" gives an account of what I mentioned above: the concern of people about Bush's zeal for executions. 

"A Role Model for Executions" talks about the executioner-to-be, G Scott of New Mexico who went to Texas to find out how to do his job. Scott said he came to Texas because he wanted to learn from the very best. Florida State Representative Chris Smith, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat,claimed "They're [Texans] our role model for killing people,''

"A Closer Look at Five Cases That Resulted in Executions of Texas Inmates" describes five extroardinary execution cases. One wonders how many such cases actually exist.

I remember how impressed I was, about 10 years ago, when I learned that a single man, Charles Thomas O'Reilly, the Texas Executioner for 33 years, did not express any regret or remorse for leading 140 prisoners to their death. Here is an article from Huffington Post on this person.

Giovanni Battista Bugatti, the official executioner for the Pope from 1796 to 1865.

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What measure theory is about

It's about counting, but when things get too large.
Put otherwise, it's about addition of positive numbers, but when these numbers are far too many.

The principle of dynamic programming

max_{x,y} [f(x) + g(x,y)] = max_x [f(x) + max_y g(x,y)]

The bottom line

Nuestras horas son minutos cuando esperamos saber y siglos cuando sabemos lo que se puede aprender.
(Our hours are minutes when we wait to learn and centuries when we know what is to be learnt.) --António Machado

Αγεωμέτρητος μηδείς εισίτω.
(Those who do not know geometry may not enter.) --Plato

Sapere Aude! Habe Muth, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen!
(Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!) --Kant