The bloodthirsty district attorney in Louisiana who made news this year by telling reporters that “we need to kill more people” has just announced that he will not run for reelection this fall.
“I have come to believe that my position on the death penalty is a minority position among the members of this community and would continue to be a source of controversy,” Dale Cox said in an e-mail, according to a local news report. “Our community needs healing and not more controversy.”
Cox became the top prosecutor in Caddo Parrish this past spring, after his predecessor died in office. A recent New Yorker article described Cox as a “jowly sixty-seven-year-old man with thinning white hair,” and reported that he had been responsible “for more than a third of the death sentences in Louisiana” since 2011. The article quoted Cox saying that revenge was a legitimate justification for the death penalty, because it “brings to us a visceral satisfaction.” Cox also told reporter Rachel Aviv, “Over time, I have come to the position that revenge is important for society as a whole. We have certain rules that you are expected to abide by, and when you don’t abide by them you have forfeited your right to live among us.”
According to the New York Times, the use of capital punishment in Caddo Parrish has shot up in recent years, even as it’s declined nationally—“accounting for fewer than 5 percent of the state’s death sentences in the early 1980s but nearly half over the past five years.” The Times also reported that from 2010 to 2014, “more people were sentenced to death per capita” there “than in any other county in the United States, among counties with four or more death sentences in that time period.”
Cox first made national news in March, when the exoneration of a Caddo Parrish man named Glenn Ford—who had spent 30 years on death row on a murder conviction—prompted a former prosecutor from the area to write an extraordinary letter denouncing the death penalty. Cox was quoted in the Shreveport Times saying, “I think the death penalty should be used more often… It has come to the place in our society where it is used less often and I think crime in our society has expanded so expeditiously … that we’re going the wrong way with the death penalty that we need it more than ever and we’re using it less now.”
In his statement today, Cox attributed his decision not to run in the upcoming election to the media attention his comments have received.
“Both the local media and the national media have leveled harsh personal criticism of me as an evil racist because of my position on the death penalty,” Cox wrote. “These attacks have been personal, savage, false and slanderous. These attacks are more and more directed at the office, not just me.”
Though it’s impossible to know whether Cox would have won reelection had he run, research on prosecutor elections suggests he probably would have, since incumbent prosecutors defeat their challengers 95 percent of the time. That said, Cox did make a point of saying in his statement that he believes he is out of step with Caddo Parrish voters on the death penalty. Maybe that means he—and his pollsters—knows something the rest of us don’t about what his chances at reelection actually would have been.