As former Supreme Court justice Harry Blackmun said, the execution of an innocent person “comes perilously close to simple murder.” Rather, it is simple murder, and one of the most horrific aspects of capital punishment. Since 1900, twenty-three people who we now know to be innocent have been murdered by the state. 350 people have been found not-guilty while on death row awaiting execution. And yet the genocide lobby continues to support limiting appeals.
The death penalty is fraught with abuses and the potential for abuse. Currently, the death penalty is divided along racial lines. Consider the following :
A 1990 report released by the federal government’s General Accounting Office found a “pattern of evidence indicating racial disparities in the charging, sentencing and imposition of the death penalty after the Furman decision.”
Professor David Baldus examined sentencing patterns in Georgia in the 1970’s. After reviewing over 2,500 homicide cases in that state, controlling for 230 non-racial factors, he concluded that a person accused of killing a white was 4.3 times more likely to be sentenced to death than a person accused of killing a black.
The Stanford Law Review published a study that found similar patterns of racial disparity, based on the race of the victim, in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Virginia. For example, in Arkansas findings showed that defendants in a case involving a white victim are three-and-a-half times more likely to be sentenced to death; in Illinois, four times; in North Carolina, 4.4 times, and in Mississippi five times more likely to be sentenced to death than defendants convicted of murdering blacks.
Does the government have a right to kill? Perhaps in self defense, as in a policeman firing on a armed and dangerous criminal. Suppose we apply the same standards to the government that we have for civilians. True, a civilian has the right to shoot at an intruder as he is entering his home. But if the civilian catches the intruder, incompacitates him, and has him under his control, then shooting the intruder would be considered simple murder. That’s what capital punishment is…simple murder.
Which brings us to the next point. What is the difference between the state killing and an individual killing? The end result is the same…one more dead body, one more set of grieving parents, one more cemetary slot. Every time we execute someone, we are sending the most profound message of cynicism about the value of human life. Every time we execute someone, we as a society sink to the same level as the common killer. The American people have blood on their hands, and it will stay there until we finally remove this barbaric practice from our nation.
Cruel ; Unusual?
Despite what you might hear, the death penalty IS cruel and unusual. For one, it is torture to keep somone locked up when they know they are waiting to be killed. To paraphase Camus, there is no equal retribution unless the convicted imprisoned his victim for years, and every day informed him of the date of his death. Furthermore, the methods of executing people have all been found to be excessively cruel. It often takes ten minutes or more to die in the electric chair, for instance. The only method that is not known to be painful and drawn out is lethal injection, about which we know very little at all.