Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Another bit of evidence that the death penalty is a bad idea

These kinds of stories are among the reasons I no longer support the death penalty:
Standing outside in a denim shirt and dark-rimmed glasses, 64-year-old Glenn Ford said he feels resentment when remembering the nearly 30 years he served on Louisiana’s death row for a crime he didn’t commit. In fact, prosecutors now say he wasn’t even at the scene of the murder and did not participate in it.

But now, he’s a free man.

A judge ordered Ford’s release from the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, where he had been held since March 1985.

He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to die by electrocution by an all-white jury that found him guilty in the robbery and murder of Isadore Rozeman, a Shreveport watchmaker who was killed in his repair shop on Nov. 5, 1983, according to Reuters. It was a verdict Ford always disputed, saying he wasn’t even there. But, until recently, the courts wouldn’t listen.

How many people have served time on death row, years, decades even, and then been exonerated?  That's not even the most chilling question; that would be: how many people have been executed for crimes they did not commit?

If even one innocent person has ever been executed for a crime, that is one person too many.  Given that our nation has the ability to incarcerate those convicted of crimes in such a way that public safety is preserved, the death penalty should be abolished.  Justice may have taken 30 years in the case of Mr. Ford, but better justice late than the final injustice of the execution of the innocent.


Svar said...

With the issue of crime, we need to look at the purpose of imprisonment and execution. Why are we doing this? a) For justice b) to keep the public safe c) to deter similar acts amongst the populace.

Completely abolishing the death penalty will only cover b)but not a) or c). In some cases, non-accidental, pre-meditated murders of women, pregnant women, and small children should be death. As should child-rape and treason.

Tarcisius said...

The death penalty does not fulfill justice either. How does executing a murderer make up for the murderer's victim? It won't bring back the murdered, so it isn't really justice. It's more of a "see how you like it" form of revenge than restitution. Besides, as this post points out, the death penalty can actually harm justice by punishing the wrong man.

I don't think that the threat of death should be used to keep the populace in line. It sounds sinister to me. Besides, if these acts are universally despised enough to warrant the death penalty, then no deterrence is going to stop those who do so anyway. People don't say, "Well, the worst that could happen is life in prison, so I think I'll go on a killing spree." The disturbed souls who commit these crimes do not seem to consider the consequences. If they did, the horror and evil inherent to the crime should be enough to stop them.

I don't presume to know who should die and who should not. In my eye, killing should only be used as a form of self-defense. In the case of execution, this is only for the defense of the public. In war, it is for the defense of the nation's people.

In my opinion, the death penalty should only be permitted if it can be definitively proven that the subject will continue to pose a threat to society as long as he is alive. If he could be safely incarcerated then he need not die. If he is someone like The Joker, who always manages to break out and do it again, then he should probably be executed.

In the end, justice is dispensed by God. God takes care of His own. He does delegate some of His power to us, allowing us to execute the truly dangerous criminal, but true justice cannot be served in this life. We should instead give the criminal every opportunity to repent of his crime. Execution removes any future chance for repentance.

naturalmom said...

Svar, study after study has shown that the death penalty has no deterrent effect on crime. Serious crimes are not lower in states that have the death penalty and crime rates do not go up in states that abolish the death penalty. So much for c) -- imprisonment is just as much of a deterrent as the death penalty, however much that may be. As for justice, justice goes both ways and must allow for correction of mistakes. An exonerated prisoner can be released. He cannot be made whole again, so it isn't perfect justice (he'll have to seek that in the next world), but at least he can have his freedom restored for whatever is left of his life. Justice for the victim need not be and eye for an eye. Life in prison is a pretty harsh and extended punishment.

I submit there is an additional reason some folks want to hold on to the death penalty: d) vengence. But vengence isn't a part of our legal system. That's why we (theoretically) don't allow mobs to hang people or let a vitim's family pull the electric switch.