It's always been one of my favorite issues because it's just so darn difficult. There are compelling arguments on both sides of the issue, but I come down against the death penalty for a few simple reasons:
- It's applied unfairly, particularly if you're poor and / or black.
- We know innocent people are being put to death; 122 people nationwide have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence.
- It's more expensive to put a criminal to death than to give him life in prison.
- Studies show that it's not a deterrent to violent crime.
- The whole "eye for an eye" mentality is, well, sort of uncivilized. Hence the reason we're one of the only (if not *the* only) first world country that still has it as a policy.
There are 38 states that allow the death penalty, and four of them -- Illinois, Kansas, New York and New Jersey -- have temporarily halted executions.
Moratorium legislation has been introduced in many other states, too. It was even introduced in the conservative Georgia State Legislature. Last month, State Senator Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) submitted legislation calling for a moratorium, and the appointment of a commission to study flaws in the system. This came after a panel of Georgia lawyers and politicians issued a report, sponsored by the American Bar Association, calling for the same thing.
The thing is, even if you're in favor of the death penalty, you surely still want it to be applied appropriately, right? You want to make sure that innocent people aren't sent to death row. And that poor people or certain races aren't unfairly targeted. I mean, that hardly seems controversial.
What's my point? Well, in light of all this talk of moratoriums and a need for reforms, you can imagine my surprise when I saw this article in the paper today: "Bill makes death setences easier."
The gist is that some nit-wit State Representative, Barry Fleming, is sponsoring House Bill 1552, which would
"remove a long-standing requirement that death sentences be imposed by a unanimous jury. If a simply majority of jurors felt a defendant should get death, the judge could impose a capital sentence."I did a double-take when I read this. I mean, does that sound like a brilliant idea or what? Other states are halting the death penalty, and Georgia, in its surpreme wisdom, wants to MAKE IT EASIER.
Nevermind that innocent people are being convicted. Nevermind that the death penalty is the most serious, not to mention irreversible, punishment that can be applied, and we damn well better get it right. Nevermind that the American Bar Association is recommending that Georgia's policies be studied. Nevermind that Georgia's application of the death penalty has been questioned for its lack of fairness. Nevermind that a less-than-unanimous jury is likely to *increase* the number of innocent people who end up on death row.
None of this matters because Rep Fleming knows it's an election year, and he wants to look "tough on crime." The worst part about it is that this ridiculous tactic will resonate with people, and this jerk will get re-elected.
Does anyone else think that this is insane?