By SKIP TUCKER, Alabama Daily News Featured Columnist
This is my step-away column for Alabama Daily News. Next week I will join former state Attorney Gen. Charlie Graddick as he takes directorship of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles. Things will change for the better. Alabamians will be safer. I found the information for this column when I was prepping for my new task. It’s fascinating and fearful. My heartfelt thanks and sincere best wishes to ADN Publisher Todd Stacy and especially to the kind, thoughtful, astute, intelligent people who have claimed to enjoy my stuff. In the past year, I’ve had more fun since the world, and I, were young. Bless your hearts, eh. -Skip
So listen. This is important.
Last year there were 110 homicides in Birmingham, according to the Jefferson Co. DA’s office. More than 40 are unsolved nor are they likely to be solved, according to state statistics. That’s not the scary part.
Here’s the scary part: 75 warrants were issued. Of the arrests, five are behind bars because they pled guilty. Seven cases were dismissed. There was one not guilty verdict. The rest of the suspects are free on bond and the office says it takes 1-2 years to bring them to trial.
Listen. Even spotty math reveals that 40 unsolved murders, with few suspects, coupled with 69 free on bond means that 109 murderers who killed last year are walking free. The odds are staggeringly high that some of them are going to kill again. The propensity for a violent offender to re-offend violently is an order of magnitude higher than for regular people.
More than 60 percent of homicides in Alabama are unresolved. To bring it home, it means that in all likelihood every citizen of a medium- to large-sized Alabama city recently has brushed elbows with a murderer, even a serial killer; dining out, at theater or supermarket.
An exhaustive study by one of the world’s top forensics expert concludes that offenders previously convicted of murder are exponentially more likely to perpetrate another murder. It’s probable that most murderers and other violent offenders, even those who repeat, are walking free at this moment.
The highly-regarded study was published recently by Forensic Science International: Synergy.
Dr. Matthew DeLisi, Iowa State University, is a leading criminologist with Fellowships awarded from both the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and Association for Psychological Science. He is the only scientist in the world who is a Fellow of both organizations.
Terrifying facts were produced by his study. There is no doubt that more than 40 percent of homicides in America are not just unsolved, but that no arrest has been made or will be made in almost half of them. Where arrests are made, more than 90 percent of the suspects are free on bond shortly after being arrested.
Put that plainly: if someone kills you or yours, there is a 90 percent probability the murderer can attend the funeral, smile and walk away free as the air. Let that sink in. Killers are rarely punished to any degree.
In an exclusive phone interview yesterday, Dr. DeLisi put it even more plainly:
“Five to 10 percent of the offender population accounts for more than 50 percent of the crime. In terms of the most serious offenses including rape, murder, armed robbery and kidnapping, these same people account for 50 to 90 percent of them.
“Thus, the likelihood that an unsolved homicide was perpetuated by a habitual offender is high.
“Offenders convicted of first-degree murder are more likely to commit homicide and 185 to 198 percent to commit multiple homicide.”
The propensity is there to a staggering degree. In or out of jail, killers are likely to kill again if given the circumstances.
Like many things, the American system of justice is less than perfect, but Americans have a right to expect better. As a matter of fact, the American system of justice is a broken system in which justice is rarely achieved. This strange system delivers death sentences to the guilty then refuses to let them die, often for decades.
Where is outrage? What laws and policies need to change to make people safe? Is it acceptable to know beyond a reasonable doubt that a known violent offender can kill and then attend the victim’s funeral?
There are remedies and none are easy nor pleasant, so perhaps that’s best unsaid for now. Judgment day is coming. I believe I’m joining a team that is just and tough and determined. I hope to aid efforts to make this state safer.
Bad guys, circle the wagons.
(Next week: I look forward to reading Todd Stacy, Mary Sell, Caroline Beck, Matt Stokes, Will Whatley and my other colleagues. See you in the funny papers. People used to say that a lot.)