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?