The botched execution in Oklahoma, in conjunction with a conservative estimate that 4% of current death row inmates are innocent of the crimes for which they have been convicted [link], should ignite moral outrage. I am grateful to live in a state that does not resort to the death penalty. And, I’d be proud to compare Minnesota crime rates – or any state that does not impose the death sentence – with states that do at any time!
Sadly, nothing is likely to change. Too many seek revenge and retribution and tenaciously hold to disproven beliefs that the death sentence serves as a deterrence – it doesn’t! All it does is to give expression to a vindictive impulse within a fearful populace.
I admit personal interest in the topic – my cousin’s son Peter was sentenced to death for a contract murder I have no doubt he carried out. Only a minor fluke in Constitutional Law enabled his sentence – begrudgingly by Nebraska legal officials I might add – to be commuted to life in prison. My previous post on this topic is available [here].
Yet, with a persistent and perennial hope that things can actually change, that societies like individuals can mature and become more enlightened, I dust off “Ten Reasons to Oppose the Death Penalty” first published in 1982. Perhaps something in Mary Meehan’s collection of arguments will provide the tipping point for America to finally claim some civility and sanity in our execution of justice.
1. There is no way to remedy the occasional mistake.
2. There is racial and economic discrimination in application of the death penalty.
3. Application of the death penalty tends to be arbitrary and capricious; for similar crimes, some are sentenced to death while others are not.
4. The death penalty gives some of the worst offenders publicity that they do not deserve.
5. The death penalty involves medical doctors, who are sworn to preserve life, in the act of killing.
6. Executions have a corrupting effect on the public.
7. The death penalty cannot be limited to the worst cases.
8. The death penalty is an expression of the absolute power of the state; abolition of that penalty is a much- needed limit on government power.
9. There are strong religious reasons for many to oppose the death penalty.
10. Even the guilty have a right to life.
You may read Mary Meehan’s 1982 article in it entirety [here].