On 19 August the Signal, my local newspaper, published an editorial entitled “Our View: Yes on Prop 62” in which they supported that ballot proposition, which would abolish the death penalty in this state. You can read their editorial here: Signal editorial
I might be more inclined to support this idea if a “life sentence” actually meant the bad guy was going to die in prison. It doesn’t.
FAR too many times they’re paroled out, or released because of “health concerns”, or get their case reopened because some lawyer found some technicality to exploit leading to a new trial LONG after witnesses have died or disappeared or forgotten details of the crime, and evidence has deteriorated.
Their victims don’t get to benefit from any of this kind of “compassion” and “justice”. They get to just stay dead.
The death penalty is only meted out to the worst of the worst. Read about Clarence Ray Allen, the last guy executed in this state: Clarence Allen pdf . The guy was a waste of skin, and doesn’t deserve anyone’s sympathy.
Further, the fact that no one’s been actually executed since 2006 simply means that the process has become too protracted. Simplify and speed up the appeals process, and limit convicts’ number of bites of the apple. As it stands now, clever attorneys simply file appeal after appeal in a generally successful effort to run out the clock on these guys.
To quote the Signal column, “According to Amnesty International USA, 10 wrongfully convicted individuals were released from death rows across the country in 2003 alone”.
That could have several different meanings. Procedural errors in the prosecution comes immediately to mind, for example, which is in no way the same thing as innocence.
In fact, at best all that statistic really does is suggest that the appellate process is successful in preventing wrongful executions. At worst, it suggests that a lot of people are gaming the system. Either way, if there were even one actual instance of a convict being wrongfully executed, I’m sure we’d have heard about it.
Further, there’s a cost to many of our social policies. Thousands of truly innocent people die every year in traffic accidents. But we don’t ban cars, nor do we have a maximum speed limit of 15 MPH. We simply accept those deaths as the cost of that policy.
I know that if my daughter were murdered I wouldn’t think justice had been served until her killer was put to death, because that’s when the punishment truly fits the crime. Even at that, I’d be settling, because those few who get the death penalty have to have committed crimes that were especially heinous, and the state’s execution process is merciful by comparison to their crimes.
And that’s the bottom line. The criminal justice system is part of our social contract, put there to prevent our society from becoming a place in which people are all running around meting out their own personal justice. BUT, society’s “justice” must be perceived as being actually just, and letting merciless killers live out their natural lives while their victims are permanently dead is no justice at all.
©Brian Baker 2016
(Also published today in my local newspaper, the Signal)