THE DEATH PENALTY

I used to think anyone convicted of first degree murder should be executed. I changed my mind when in the mid-1990’s, Northwestern Law Students under the guidance of Professor Lawrence Marshall proved Gary Gauger innocent of murdering his mother and his father. By then, Gauger, an organic gardener, had spent three years in Joliet Illinois State Correctional Institution, eight months of that on death row.

Capital punishment was illegal in the United States until 1976. Since then, 1,266 people have been put to death. No one knows how many of those were innocent. Edward Lee Elmore who was convicted in 1983 of the sexual assault and murder of an elderly widow in Greenwood, South Carolina. DNA proved his innocence but not before he spent thirty years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

If he’d lived in Texas, he’d probably be dead. During his ten year term as Governor, Rick Perry has overseen the execution of 234 people and he’s proud of it. He says, “if you don’t want to carry a gun or don’t believe in the death penalty, don’t move to Texas.”

Cameron Todd Willingham was convicted in August 1992 for the murder of his three young children in a fire deemed arson. Willingham was executed on Feb. 17, 2004. In 2005, Texas Forensic Science Commission re-examined the case. They hired a nationally known fire scientist, Craig Beyler, to evaluate the evidence. He reported that there was no credible scientific basis for the conclusion that arson had been committed or that Willingham had done it.

Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington D.C. have abolished the death penalty. Still, The United States ranks fifth on the global list of nations carrying out executions right behind China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Yemen.

Why would we consider protecting the life of a united human sperm and egg in a Petri dish but not the life of a person convicted of a crime he or she may not have committed?

10 Responses to THE DEATH PENALTY

  • Bob says:

    What a difficult topic for an Easter morning.

    I use to believe that the death penalty was wrong in every case, but now I’m not so sure. I don’t think I could rationally give the death penalty if I was on a jury. Emotionally it would be easier to say, “He/She should die.”

    I would also feel better if justice weren’t blind in so many cases. But, in America, we have taken our prejudices to court with us and that shows in the number of “other” people on death row.

    After attending a murder trial and watching the machinations of the attorneys, it’s no wonder justice is rarely served. In a case with very few givens and little evidence, it became an issue of who had the best attorney. The county prosecutor was a joke…inept, bored, and unwilling to work very hard.

    I watched a man walk free for a murder I think he committed, but the jury couldn’t unanimously agree on whether he did or not. Guess it’s better that he go free if any of them had a doubt.

    Rick Perry need not fear that I will be moving to Texas because I don’t believe in him at all.

  • Bob says:

    In answer to your petrie dish question, Americans have never cared much for women so anything we can do to make their lives miserable is okay, like controlling their reproductive processes. The forces of “good” want to protect the “baby” from the fertilized egg stage until it breathes fresh-air. Then we don’t care anymore about it’s health, education, well-being, but, by God, that fetus is important. Anoter example of current American justice gone wild (IMHO).

  • Glenn Haynes says:

    Last night we watched the 1962 production of “To kill a mickingbird” which should be required viewing/reading for any jurist in a capital offense trial.
    I don’t think this a “difficult” topic for Easter/Passover but rather a call for us to get our heads out of the sand and join the civilized communities in the world by removing the death penalty in all cases.
    Good job, Beth, for raising this topic!

  • Ann McM. Kenney says:

    With so many wrongful convictions in our justice system, we have to reevaluate the merit of capital punishment. Certainly DNA evidence will clarify identification of suspects, but it does not address the legality and/or morality of a state’s taking the life of any citizen.

    • Ann McM. Kenney says:

      With so many wrongful convictions in our justice system, we have to reevaluate the merit of capital punishment. Certainly DNA evidence will clarify identification of suspects, but it does not address the legality and/or morality of a state’s taking the life of any citizen.

  • maril crabtree says:

    As a former lawyer, I agree with Theresa — I know how easy it is to convict someone on evidence that is not factual proof of committing the crime – and I know how the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” gets distorted. Another movie that should be a “must see” for everyone is “Twelve Angry Men.”

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