Capital Punishment Good Afternoon, I am honored to be here, and I thank you for having me. Today I would like to speak to you about a very controversial issue- capital punishment. What do those two words mean to you? To most people they mean a murder victims family receiving justice for their deceased. Let me see a show of hands. How many people in the audience believe in the death penalty? I conducted a weeklong survey of two hundred people of all ages.
The purpose was to see how many people believed in the death penalty and how many opposed it. My results are shown on this overhead. As you can clearly see, 98% believe in the death penalty. 57% believe that the death penalty is a deterrent for murder. A high of 97% of the people favor capital punishment, where 1% think that our justice system should not be more lenient on death row inmates.
Only 89% think that once convicted of murder, an inmate should be sentenced to death immediately. I would like to take this time to tell you a story. On August 15, 1997, the Reverend John Miller preached a sermon at the Martha Vineyards Tabernacle in New Hampshire. He told his congregation, which included the vacationing President Clinton and his wife, that capital punishment is wrong. I invite you to look at a picture of Timothy McVeigh and to forgive him, said Miller.
If we profess to be Christians, then we are called to love and forgive. Once the sermon ended, Rev. Miller, Clinton, and their wives got together for brunch at the Sweet Life Cafi. What the Rev. did not know was that 24-year-old Jeremy T Charron; an Epsom New Hampshire police officer was gunned down in cold blood just hours before Millers sermon on forgiving murderers. That Sunday marked Charrons 44th day as a full time police officer, the job he dreamed of since he was 6 years old.
Jeremy Charron leaves behind his parents, two sets of grandparents, two sisters, two brothers, a wide circle of friends, and a girlfriend whose engagement ring he had begun to shop for. Maybe the Reverend Miller would advise those grieving for Charron to look at pictures of Gordon Perry, the robber accused of pumping the bullets into Charrons heart, and 18 year old Kevin Paul, the accomplice, and forgive. The state of New Hampshire has opted not to forgive, but to prosecute. Perry has been charged with capital murder. If he is convicted, the state will seek the death penalty for the first time since 1939. Jeanne Shepard, the democratic governor, says a capital murder prosecution will put criminals On notice that if they kill a police officer in New Hampshire, they will face the death penalty. What if they kill someone other than a cop? Should criminals not be put on notice that they will face the death penalty if they kill a cashier in cold blood? A farmer, or a schoolteacher? They should- but the law says otherwise.
In New Hampshire as in all states with the death penalty, murder can be punished with execution only in specific circumstances. The murder of an officer in the line of duty is one of them. Among others are murder combined with rape, murder for higher, and murder in the course of kidnapping. First degree murder is not punishable by death. One who willfully murders a cashier is no less evil then the murderer of a police officer.
Both have committed the worst crime. Both should be subjected to the worst possible punishment. That is justice. Standing in the way of that justice, however, are the likes of Rev. Miller, who brim with such pity for criminals that they have none left over for the victims.
Forgive Timothy McVeigh, he says, as if we have that right. Absolve the man who slaughtered 168 innocent men, women, and children in Oklahoma City. Pardon the killer of Officer Charron. Nothing could be more sinful and indecent. How sad that Miller, enjoying his brunch with the president at the Sweet Life Cafi, should lack compassion for the sweet life of others. Executions at U.S.
prisons reached a 40- year high last year. There are going to be more executions in the future as these cases are speeded up, as a result of federal and state laws shortening the appeal process. I would now like to direct your attention to the overhead. The following chart shows statistics of the number of executions per state for the 1997 year. Currently there are only 12 states without the death penalty.
Those states are Hawaii, Alaska, West Virginia, Washington D.C., Rhode Island, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North Dakota. The U.S. has over 1.5 million incarcerated in prisons, by far the largest system in the world, and that does not include those in jail. The tough-on-crime politicians, of course, are elected by promising bigger and better jails for those scum bags. I once heard someone say, Building jails to lessen crime is like building more cemeteries to prevent AIDS. Prison building is the fastest growing industry in America.
In fact, prisons can no longer be called prisons. The politically correct term is correction-industrial complexes. Gene Amole is a writer for the New York Times who opposes the death penalty. As experiences show, there is no closure, when the one who did the killing is executed. There is a very real climate of revenge and retribution in this country.
What we need is restorative justice and healing. Mr. Amole comments on the sixth commandment, (it) is so simple, so easy to understand, Thou Shalt Not Kill. There is nothing that I can see that permits us to commit premeditated institutional murder, which is exactly what capital punishment is. Gene Amole is not the only one against capital punishment. In May of 1998, Newsday magazine spoke out against capital punishment, saying that its only purpose is revenge, that it is not a deterrent to murder, and the goal of our society should be keeping killers off the streets. [Murder deserves Life In Jail, Not Death Penalty, May 26]. Gerald Deutsh, of Port Washington, speaks out against the article in a letter to the editor. I am not sure that the death penalty is a deterrent, but if it is not, we certainly need to have some sort of deterrence built into our criminal justice system.
Keeping killers Off the Street is not sufficient, especially if where we put them is a place that may (to them) be a better place then where they came from. Deutsh has an important point. Suppose to a killer, prison is not so terrible. Suppose the killer is used to a prison environment where all of his needs are taken care of, and s …