Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Just say no, Wisconsin

Today is primary election day in nine states plus Washington, D.C. Seems like a good time to remind people that this November, Wisconsin voters will cast ballots in a nonbinding referendum on whether to reinstate the death penalty (which Wisconsin has not had in 154 years, and which they have not appeared to miss).

Recently an alternative weekly in Milwaukee published this article on Ray Krone, who was the 100th person freed from death row due to new evidence of innocence. (Later, a DNA "cold hit" would apprehend the guy who actually committed the crime.)

Hat tip to my friend and former NCADP intern Kurt Rosenberg for sending the article my way.

It starts off like this:

A Former Death Row Prisoner Speaks Out
Why Wisconsin should not bring back the death penalty

Ray Krone was convicted for murdering a woman in a Phoenix bar and sentenced to death in 1992. He maintained that he was innocent. The courts disagreed. But after more than 10 years, DNA evidence exonerated him of the crime and he became a free man.

Krone was in Wisconsin this week as part of the organization Witness to Innocence, telling everyone far and wide about the dangers of reinstating the death penalty in the state. Wisconsin’s voters will be able to weigh in on an advisory referendum in November that would allow capital punishment to be used in cases of first-degree intentional homicide, “if the conviction is supported by DNA evidence.”

Krone said the referendum is pure politics. “Your state had no death
penalty for 150-some years and I think that’s very wise and insightful,” he said. “But people act on emotions and politicians want your vote and this is a way to use emotions to get your vote and get the voters to turn out.”


The article then asks a series of compelling questions and Krone answers them:

But why not allow the death penalty to be used in cases that are proven by DNA evidence?

“DNA is only present in 20% of homicide cases,” Krone said. “There’s also
been proof that DNA, if not handled properly, can come back with false positives
and lead to wrongful and erroneous convictions. Human error is inevitable. But
the death penalty is not revocable, it’s not reversible. If you kill somebody,
you can’t bring them back when you realize that you’ve made a
mistake.”

But doesn’t the death penalty deter crime?

“No. Very rarely do murderers go on to commit murder again,” Krone said.
“If it were true that the death penalty deterred crime, then your state would be
overrun with murderers because you don’t have it and surrounding states would be
free of murders.”

Doesn’t the death penalty give closure to the families of victims?

“Actually, it leaves them open to a lot of things,” Krone said. “Because of
all of the appeals, the process [drags] out for a while and the families have to
go through that emotional state again. Whereas if you sentence someone to life,
you’re not going to really hear from them again.”

But isn’t a life sentence easy, compared to facing death?

“When I was on death row and they were executing people around me, they
took those men off to be executed and none of them was fighting it or putting up
any resistance,” Krone said. “They all said, ‘Kill me, because it’s got to be
better than living here.’ So if people are all about punishment and making
people suffer, if you make them [convicted murderers] get up every day in
prison, with its horrible conditions and the violence that goes on there, that’s
real punishment.”

If you're in Wisconsin or are interested in the referendum, check out No Death Penalty Wisconsin's new site.

1 comment:

PersianCowboy said...

«It’s just really tragic after all the horrors of the last 1,000 years we can’t leave behind something as primitive as government sponsored execution.»

«Those who favor the death penalty should be pressed to explain why fallible human beings should presume to use the power of the state to extinguish the life of a fellow human being on our collective behalf. Those who oppose the death penalty should demand that explanation adamantly, and at every turn.»

«Our use of the death penalty also stands in stark contrast to the majority of nations that have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Even Russia and South Africa -- nations that for years were symbols of egregious violations of basic human rights and liberties -- have seen the error of the use of the death penalty… The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has called for a worldwide moratorium on the use of the death penalty… The European Union denies membership in their alliance to those nations that use the death penalty.»

«I don't see how anyone -- whether you're for the death penalty or against the death penalty -- can justify innocent people being on death row.» «I remember the day, after the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, the first execution took place in 1977 in Utah, when Gary Gilmore aggressively sought his own death by a firing squad. But I more vividly remember the day in May 1979 when the first involuntary execution took place. That morning, I finished my last law school exam. Later that day, I turned on the television and saw the news report that Florida had just executed John Spenkelink. I was overcome with a sickening feeling. The education in law that I had just completed had filled me with the belief that our legal system was advancing inexorably through the latter quarter of the 20th century. Instead, to my great dismay, I beheld a throwback to the electric chair, the gallows, and the routine executions of our Nation’s violent past. I will never forget that experience. I will never forget that day.»

-- Russ Feingold, U.S. Senator, Wisconsin.