I have long opposed the death penalty and always will. There is no “social” issue that is more important to me. In part my opposition is based on religious beliefs and even more so because I do not believe the state should lower itself to the very lowest elements of society, and killers are just that.
Of course there is another element involved, and that is the undeniable fact that some innocent human beings have been executed, killed, their lives snuffed out. It just has to be true because: 1) the odds are too immense to deny it has never occurred, and 2) some after-the-fact evidence is overwhelming that the person sent to his death did not do it.
Having said all of that so you can fire off your e-mails, I would also like to say that I have no idea how I could ever look into the eyes of a loved one who had a family member murdered and tell them they cannot have the ultimate justice they are looking for.
Of course this column stems from last week’s execution of Troy Davis in Georgia. I tried to follow the case as closely as possible over the last few months, and I still cannot come to a conclusion that he did or did not commit the crime. Which is a problem. As you may know, many witnesses recanted; some jury members said had they known all of that they might not have either found him guilty OR would not have voted for the death penalty.
Now that too is a problem.
And there is another problem as outlined by Notre Dame Professor of Law Rick Garnett: the American courts inability to properly handle new evidence in cases after a conviction has been reached.
While our system has many safeguards, the appeals process being the most notable, if we cannot handle new evidence that is either discovered or changed (the witnesses in this case), then the death penalty should at least be put on hold until this flaw is corrected.
Much has been made of the “cheering” that occurred when, during a debate, Rick Perry recounted his history of approving executions in Texas. I would like to think that was just a fraction of the audience and that the majority did the right thing and kept quiet.
Societal change does not happen quickly in the country, and executions were a public event in some places well into the 20th century.
No matter your view, can’t we at least agree that the system has its flaws and we are good enough and bright enough to find a better way?