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Click above to help sponsor Walt in an ALS walk, October 1. He is a "designated walker" for someone who had signed up and then can't participate, but Walt's good friend Bill Cunningham died of ALS and he was more than happy to do the walk. Let me show him that my readers are stsanding behind him! (The name on the account is Lion-Carlos Carvajal and the team is the Yolo Sunset Lions Club). Thanks!!!
LIFE AND DEATH
23 September, 2011
In the midst of our celebration of new life around here there is a spectre of death which is hanging over the whole country.
Troy Davis was executed in Georgia last night, having lost his final appeal to the Supreme Court. Davis has been on death row for the past 2 decades for the murder of a Savannah police officer in 1989. He has repeatedly said he was innocent.
There was no physical evidence proving his guilt. Everything was based on eye-witness accounts. Toward the end, all but one of the witnesses against him recanted, stating their testimony had been coerced by the police. Davis was denied his request for a polygraph test. In the end, the Supreme Court, delaying four hours, denied his request for a stay of execution. Several jurors who heard of evidence not presented at trial said that would have changed their decision.
This is a case I have not followed at all, but the more I read about it in the last couple of days, the more it sounded like a plot straight out of "The Confession" by John Grisham, in which on the eve of the execution of a prisoner for a murder he insists he did not commit, the real murderer confesses and even produces souvenirs he kept from the girl's body and says he will lead the police to her body.
The problem is that he is several states away and on probation, so it is unlawful for him to leave the state, but a well-meaning minister agrees to drive him across state lines to the prison so he can present his evidence. The evidence is rejected and the (innocent) prisoner is executed.
After the execution, the murderer leads the police to the grave of the victim.
In this day of DNA we have learned how many prisoners now on death row around the country are cleared of their crimes when the evidence is able to be reviewed.
It sickens me how bloodthirsty we have become in this country. Case in point the enthusiastic cheers which arose from the audience when Governor Perry bragged of the execution rate in Texas, which went from 0 prisoners on Death Row in 1978 to 333 in 210 and 0 executions in 1978 to 24 in 210. The rates rose steadily with the highest (37-40) in 1997-2000, years when George Bush was governor. At least six of those executed in Texas between 1989 and 2003 were later proven innocent when new technology was applied to old evidence.
We rush to judgement in this country and death watches are held outside of prisons when executions are about to be held, the pros and the cons on opposite sides of the road, all yelling or praying until the murder has taken place.
Some of these guys executed are beasts who commit unspeakable horrors on innocent victims, but we are diminished as a society when we turn around and kill them. We bend over backwards to be "fair." If they are declared mentally incompetent (perhaps by 20 years in solitary confinement), we don't execute them. 'Cause we're good people who wouldn't kill someone mentally ill, right?
I have a friend who is staunchly right to life, yet is in favor of the death penalty. I once asked this person to justify that seemingly contradictory philosophy. The answer I got was that more Bible study was going to be involved. I never got a final answer. I still think you can't be willing to be arrested for trying to save the life of the unborn, and be strongly in favor of the execution of a criminal. Life is life. We mere morals should not have the power to decide whose life is worth more than another life.
Strictly on a financial argument, the thing is that it costs signifantly more to execute a prisoner than it does to keep him behind bars for life. According to "Death Penalty Focus," California could save $1 billion over five years by replacing the death penalty with permanent imprisonment without possibility of parole. California taxpayers pay $90,000 more per death row inmate each year than on prisoners in regular confinement. The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice in 2008 stated that with the then-current death row population of 670, California would save $63 million annually.
In the current economy it just makes just plain fiscal sense to do away with the death penalty.
But I don't care about the financial aspects of it. We just have to be better than an eye-for-an-eye society. Surely we have evolved further than the lions v. Christian mentality. How does the death of one of even the scummiest of scumbags benefit society over life imprisonment?
Think about what you know, or think you know, about the treatment of prisoners in prisons, not only by guards but by other prisoners. Think about a cell. Think about solitary confinement. Think about crappy prison food. Think about never being able to hug your loved ones, or see your children for more than a few minutes a week. Think about having to endure that for 20, 30, 40, maybe even 50 years. Think about how that might make death a pleasant prospect for the guy on Death Row.
I don't know about you, but I want there to be punishment, but I'd much rather condemn a guilty person to a life of unending prison conditions than to give them the promise of a sweet release following a momentary unpleasant death. (Maybe that makes me more bloodthirsty than the guys who cheered the death rate in Texas.)
But the other thing that life imprisonment does is
it completely eliminates the possibility of executing an innocent man. I
think that is a worthwhile reason to get rid of the death penalty right there.
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