10 Last-minute Stays of Execution


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Burke and Hare: Murderers for Money and Science

Burke and Hare: Murderers for Money and Science

Burke and Hare were Scottish murderers who sold corpses for cash. Delve into the dark story with HowStuffWorks.


Author's Note: 10 Last-minute Stays of Execution

In my 30-year career as a journalist, I've covered a number of murder cases. I've listed to some grisly courtroom testimony about extreme acts of violence and got to see the perpetrators close-up. I've also met the families of murder victims, and seen the heartache and trauma they've experienced. As a result, I don't have much sympathy for convicted killers, and I don't have any abstract moral qualms about the death penalty. In practical terms, however, I also know that capital punishment doesn't work very well, because ensuring that there aren't any wrongful executions necessitates an appeals process that can be lengthy, time-consuming, and extremely expensive to taxpayers. As a result, Randy Kraft, a California serial killer whose case I covered in the 1980s, was still sitting on death row at San Quentin prison 24 years after his conviction for 16 murders. I'm guessing that the cost of litigating his appeals and keeping him in segregated, high-security confinement all those years has cost taxpayers many additional millions of dollars, while providing little consolation to his victims' families.

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