Capital Punishment-Speaking the Unspeakable
I decided not to post it, that the emotions were too strong, and my message would not be received so close to the tragedy of a probably innocent man being executed under the banner of due process. I did discuss my thoughts with a friend, who told me about Douthat's article that was an almost exact expression of what I said. I'm leaving my draft as it was then, with just the addition of one bold facing, on the point that if the focus on injustice that occurs because of capital punishment prevent future relying of eye witness identifications for convictions, the overall deaths will be decreased. That among those wrongly convicted, the decrease of deaths by suicide for those living their lives out in prison will be greater than those lost to executions,
How Capital Punishment lessens Injustice
Personally, I find contemplation of executing an innocent man abhorrent. A sentiment shared by the thousands of individuals and organizations that have expressed their outrage.
What is missing in this story, are the numbers of people who have been convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole by the very same defective system of investigation and prosecution. This vastly larger group, an unseen anonymous mass of humanity receive little press, few editorials of outrage, and are quietly consigned to an existence that for some is worse than death.
One answer to this argument is that where there is life there is hope. While true, only during these last years when DNA testing has been made more practical has there been an increase in exonerations. In most case DNA is not in evidence, so eye witness identification, faulty even under the best procedures, are still used.
The martyrdom of Mr. Davis is being wasted if it is directed at abolition of this punishment, rather than demanding procedures that will curtail conviction of this not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The interaction at the last Republican Presidential Debate is illustrative.
As Brian Williams tried to continue asking his question, the crowd broke into applause, prompting Williams to pause.
The moderator then continued: “Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?”
Here's where Perry deflected the question, begged the question of innocence by making the assumption of unquestioned guilt in his answer.
Perry responded, “no, sir.”
“I’ve never struggled with that at all,” he said. “The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place of which — when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens,
People are tried when they are accused of committing such crimes, being innocent until proven guilty.
they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States, if that’s required.”
It is often pointed out that the U.S. is one of the few advanced countries that still have the death penalty. We are also one of the few that still have life without parole. We have such inhumane conditions in our largest state, California, that suicides, higher for all people who are incarcerated, are twice as high in this state.
I don't have the statistics, but I would suspect that the suicides of those who are incarcerated for life represent more deaths than those who are executed. These people, many innocent based on the vagaries of eye witness identification, get virtually no press, no outrage, and no demands for remediation.
This is the ongoing challenge that must not fade after the tragedy of Troy Davis' execution.
comment to N.Y. Times editorial on indefensible punishment
Who are those represented by this editorial trying to protect, those who are executed, or the public from the pain of experiencing it? And let me offer another aspect, that there were two high profile executions on the day that Davis was killed, the other being Lawrence Russell Brewer. This editorial, which is against the death penalty In principle, not specific to this case, chose not to include him as an example of those will also be spared by such abolition.
There is another aspect that is ignored. There are grave everyday injustices in our criminal justice system, from arrest, interrogation, wealth inequities, to trial. Even though the aggregate suffering, shown by suicides, by those who get life without parole may be greater than those who are executed, they get almost no press for their punishment. We can argue this punishment allows more miscarriages of justice, yet such travesties would never rise to the public's consciousness if it wasn't for the brutality, the horror of taking a life.
If Troy Davis had been sentenced to life without parole the injustice of his conviction would never have been known to the public, nor would there have been any effort to ensure it not happen again.
Labels: Federal Govt