Friday, March 11, 2011

The Death Penalty Gets a Death Sentence

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty the other day.  As a result, 15 death row inmates will now serve life without parole.

Hopefully other states will follow.

I have never understood why we execute criminals and always viewed it as a barbaric response to barbaric crimes.  An eye for an eye. 

Therein lies the problem.  Executions are like surfing on a subway car.  If you make a wrong move, you can't go back.  And when it comes to death row inmates there have been plenty of "wrong moves" through the years.

Northwestern University's Medill Innocence Project began looking at death row cases in 1999.  Their investigations have led to 11 innocent men being freed, 5 of whom were on death row.  One of the exonerated, Anthony Porter, was said to be an inspiration behind former Governor George Ryan's moratorium on the death penalty several years ago.  

Ryan came to realize that there is no such thing as an "airtight" case.  If close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, I would hate to be the guy wrongly accused.  And you have to wonder, how many innocent people have we already executed?

We may never know. 

I have read the stories of horrible people committing heinous crimes.  I can't imagine life for the victim's families.   Attorneys fight for victims, but no amount of money or years served will bring back a loved one. 
And violence shouldn't beget violence. 

As a child I remember hearing the story of Gary Gilmore, who chose death by firing squad in 1977 as opposed to hanging, which were the two ways you could be executed in Utah at the time.   I guess it's an upgrade over stoning or being burned at the stake.

As a Catholic I believe life without parole is a far better deal for a killer than the hereafter.  Forgiveness? That's another story.

I have heard valid arguments that certain crimes should warrant the death penalty, or that it should be allowed for a defendant who confesses or wants to be executed. 

Both arguments support the belief that killing inmates is an acceptable form of justice.  Or retribution.

With Illinois news dominated by big haired lunatic governors and our state's financial sinkhole, it's nice to see leadership for a change.


  1. This is such an emotional issue and it is too unfathomable to have a just resolution. Shall people who commit crimes against humanity live a full life ie Hitler, Sadam Hussein? Shall society bear the costs of survival of those whose mental derrangement causes them to take the life of another? Is this another example of man's or society's failure to accept responsibilty for its actions? Is this another example of the hypocrisy of pro-life supporters who also support the death penalty for adults. Lastly, shall 1000 guilty go free to protect a single innocent who shall not be condemned and has our failure to identify the guilty led to some of the greatest tragedies of human desecration as appeasement after appeasement only encourages the despots.

  2. So you waver on this one. I honestly never have. I've always seen it as barbaric for our state to sponsor killing. And I agree with your pro-life comment completely.