Friday, April 6, 2012

Death Penalty Cruel and Ineffective: Well Is It or Isn’t it?

I’ve been watching the debates over whether Connecticut should abolish the death penalty.  The arguments are nothing new, despite the unprecedented public emotion displayed by several senators who related personal struggles based on their moral views, ultimately reversing their previous positions and voting to repeal the law.

The arguments against the death penalty are what you’d expect:

  • The possibility that innocent people who were wrongly convicted will be executed, especially after the multiple cases where this has been proven to have occurred through DNA testing 
  • Concerns that as more advanced genetic techniques are developed, we’ll discover numerous others who were mistakenly executed
  • The fact that research has failed to support the argument the death penalty serves as a deterrent
  • That cruel and unusual punishment is not allowed in this country yet we fail to consider forcing someone to sit on death row while ruminating on their own execution for years and sometimes even decades, as cruel
  • Concerns that by executing people we have become the embodiment of the same evil we’re trying to eliminate
  • The position that you can’t punish murder with murder and expect this to result in a better society
  • That the death penalty is randomly applied and discriminatory in terms of who receives the sentence

The proposed repeal was passed by the Senate with a vote of 20-16 and is expected to sail through the House of Representatives with a promise from the Governor that he will sign it.

Up to here, I’m fine, never being in favor of the death penalty based on many of the same arguments already listed.  My problem comes when, after passing a bill getting rid of a punishment because it is considered inhumane, immoral with the possibility that innocent people may mistakenly be executed, the same Bill adds the defining qualifier “prospective” to its application.  In other words, it will only apply to those convicted after the Bill is passed.

Admittedly not great in logic, I still think something is amiss here.  I can’t seem to figure out how something is considered wrong but at the same time, in regards to a few people is also considered right.  I always believed right and wrong were mutually exclusive.  Yet here we have two different realities existing simultaneously.  It’s like our perception of starlight – We stargaze and from our point of view perceive stars which we feel exist despite being told that the light we see has traveled so far before reaching us that the star that was its source died long ago.  Alive and Dead.  Exists and Doesn’t Exist.

According to all appearance, we are on the brink of passing a Bill stating that due to a number of unacceptable moral and ethical reasons, the death penalty is no longer a legal punishment in Connecticut.  Yet at the same time apparently it either isn’t believed to be inhumane or immoral when applied to the 11 men currently on death row or the basis of the repeal is still accepted as the absolute law of the land prohibiting the use of the punishment, except in regards to these men.

Many prosecutors strongly oppose the bill, arguing that abolishing the death penalty will prevent the 11 men currently on death row from being executed.   Despite the assurance of the Governor that the abolished law would only apply to future cases not those already sentenced, prosecutors have said that the only way to make sure that these sentences aren’t eventually commuted is to retain the death penalty until after all have been executed.   At that point, these prosecutors have stated they would fully support repealing the punishment.

Have we entered the Twilight Zone?  Or simply lost the conviction of our beliefs to the point of compromising what we have so strongly asserted only moments before?  We can’t decide that a practice is wrong but then act in a way that indicates we find the practice only sometimes wrong, at least for now, but that it will become entirely wrong at some point in the future.  Even Dr. Seuss’s rhymes make more sense than this.

Senator Len Suzio said it best.  “The bill is predicated on the idea that the death penalty is always wrong under any and all circumstances.  If you're going to say that taking human life in the form of a legal execution is wrong going forward, then its wrong going backward."   

Thank goodness there’s at least one individual who represents the voice of reason in the midst of irrationality.  I only hope it’s airborne. 

No comments:

Post a Comment