Friday, April 06, 2007

I read the news today, oh boy....

...and it seems yet another newspaper has come out in favor of abolishing the death penalty.

This editorial comes from the Carlisle Sentinel, in Pennsylvania:

The death penalty has served its time

The death penalty is useless.

Even those who believe in the death penalty should come to that conclusion after reading The Sentinel's package of stories Sunday. Those storie sshowed that after the considerable expense of sentencing people to die, those defendants spend another dozen years or so fighting with appeals, again to the public's great expense.

In Pennsylvania, a felon has to volunteer to die for the death penalty to work.

This has led to 221 residents on Pennsylvania's death row, the 4th-largest number in the nation. The one sure way and an option rarely chosen to get off death row is to jump on the gurney and stick out your arm for the injection. Another is to be released, which is more likely, considering the 6 inmates whose sentences have been overturned since 1982.

Death penalty supporters point to the victims and their families as they argue for the punishment. But what about the families? What about the lengthy trial that compounds the anguish of their loved one's awful death? What about the years of awaiting appeal court decisions? And perhaps most important, what about their feelings on the occasions the defendant was wrongfully convicted?

What is right for the families is dependable, quick justice.

The reflex is to peel off the layers of appeals available to defendants. But considering the number of defendants exonerated by DNA evidence andother means, we would consider that unwise. And as state Rep. Willl Gabigtold The Sentinel, "We haven't heard that the statute is preventing people from being executed."

So we are left with a grueling process that in the end only guarantees more suffering for victims' families and society at large as faith in the justice system erodes. Beyond the emotional reasoning for capital punishment, many argue the death penalty as a deterrent is too important to let go. As compelling an argument that might be, a look at the record pace of homicides in Pennsylvania's cities casts a shadow of doubt on that theory.

And doubt is what is developing about capital punishment in general. One of The Sentinel's stories Sunday pointed to a Gallup poll last year that found for the 1st time in decades a majority of Americans prefer prison without parole over the death penalty in cases of murder. Whether this opinion results from frustration with the system or revulsion at the punishment, we don't know. We do know the pendulum is swinging away from Pennsylvania's position on a law it cannot even execute.

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