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No "Happy Iraq" Stories Tonight

Reported by Nancy - December 15, 2004 -

Last night's edition of Special Report (12/14) didn't repeat the "Happy Iraq" propaganda that was on Fox News Live earlier that day. Instead, there was a rather sober report from Bret Baier at the Pentagon. And then Brit Hume surprised me again with another interesting & informative interview, this time about the death penalty.

At 6:02pm (ET), Baier's report on the situation in Iraq included a taxi bomb near the Green Zone (no US casualties), roadside bombs that may have killed 7 Marines (military hasn't yet confirmed), 6 more Iraqis "executed" in Mosul (for a total of >70 in the past 3 weeks) & a "top leader" who was "allied" to Zarqawi has been killed & 2 of Zarqawi's "aides" captured [comment: funny how these terrorists seem to have an endless supply of "lieutenants" & "aides" & "allies" for us to capture or kill]. But General Myers is escorting a USO tour [comment: !!!] in Iraq, & there was a clip of him saying how Fallujah will be back on its feet soon & he anticipates the return of the civilian population in a few days [comment: I'm sure the producers were oblivious to the irony of the video of Fallujah that accompanied this, showing heavily armed US marines stalking through smoking rubble]. Then Baier showed a clip of Allawi saying that trials of Saddam Hussein & other high-ranking Iraqis from the previous govt will begin soon.

Following a few other short reports, at 6:18pm (ET), David Lee Miller reported on Michael Ross, a death row inmate in CT who is scheduled to be executed next month. Ross apparently wants the execution to happen & has tried to waive any further appeals, & CT Gov Jodi Rell (GOP) has said she will let the process go forward. This would be the first state-sanctioned execution in CT in decades. Opponents of the death penalty are protesting, & lawsuits are being filed claiming that Ross is not competent to make a decision about waiving appeals.

NOTE: I wasn't familiar with Ross' case; if you're curious about him, as I was, there's a good summary at Final Exposure, a site documenting selected death row inmates in 11 states.

Hume used this story & a reference to Scott Peterson as a jumping-off point for an interview at 6:21pm (ET) with Jonathan Turley (law prof at GWU) about the "state of the death penalty". As happened the previous night, the guest was interesting & well-informed, & Hume -- after an awkward start where he almost tried to put the usual right-wing spin on it (asking about whose wishes should take precedence, a nod to the "suffering victims' families" agenda) -- asked questions that were open-ended & allowed Turley to give viewers some useful information. For example, Hume asked how many states have the death penalty (Turley said 38, plus the federal govt), then followed-up by asking how often it's imposed. Turley noted that there's been a sharp drop since 1999, with both sentences & executions down approx 50%; he attributed this, at least in part, to juries being reluctant to impose the death penalty after all the exonerations that have taken place recently with new DNA evidence (117). He also said that there's a 68% chance of reversal in death penalty cases that are appealed. Turley said that the time between being sentenced to death & being executed averages out nationally to about 9.5 years (CA is longest at 20 yrs, TX shortest at 7 yrs). Hume brought up the issue of deterrence, & Turley replied that there is no data showing any relationship between crime rates & the death penalty. Hume asked whether it's more expensive for states to apply life in prison or the death penalty, & Turley said that a life sentence is cheaper (both were unwilling to speculate on which is harder on the person convicted). The interview lasted 6 minutes [comment: & I wish it had been longer, because Turley was just loaded with info].

Sadly, the program deteriorated with the usual "panel" discussion at the end (Barnes, Birnbaum, Krauthammer). Comment: Hume really needs to get a different cast of characters, at least occasionally, if he wants these segments to be anything more than gossip & gripe sessions.