I Flip-Flopped on the Death Penalty

I used to be a zealous advocate for the death penalty. An eye for an eye! Justice must be served! But in recent years I’ve teetered on the fence of unsurity. After covering some death penalty cases for various news sources, I hereby rescind my advocacy for said punishment.

My opposition doesn’t come from the idea that you can’t be ‘pro-life’ and ‘pro-death penalty.’ (You can do whatever you want and a lot of people are both.) Nor is it about the ‘humanity’ of it. And I certainly don’t care what ‘other countries’ or the UN have to say about it. It really isn’t even about the mental health component, because, while I find the idea of the State determining what mental capacity is acceptable for various punishments, fixing that wouldn’t really fix the overarching problem:cHOP

The fact that we cannot serve justice in a broken legal system and that the lies they tell you about saving money when someone is put to death are false.

It doesn’t take much more than a traffic ticket to reveal the real flaws of our legal system. Even for those crimes not on the list of ‘punishable by death’ show us often a sentence that has been overturned, or a case thrown out because of ‘new evidence,’ or an oversight during an investigation. Sure, it’s the big cases that hit the news circuits where a man is freed from prison after serving some 36 years…wrongfully. Is 29 years “better” than 36? We know it happens more than we would like to admit. We feel bad for the victim of a wrongful conviction but then carry on and go back to soccer practice and Facebook. It’s almost as if society is afraid to acknowledge its flaws. ::gasp::

Statistics show the following:

  • 144 people on death row have been exonerated since 1973 when the death penalty was reinstated. (Here is the list)
  • We know of at least 10 cases where someone was wrongfully executed.
  • It costs $90,000 more PER YEAR to house a death row prisoner, compared to ‘general confinement.’
  • Forbes points out that it can be 10x more expensive to kill an inmate than to keep them alive and attorneys on both sides spend roughly 44x more time on death penalty appeal cases than life sentence appeal cases.
  • Because of the lengthy appeals process that can take decades to settle, states can spend upward of $184 million PER YEAR in death penalty appeals cases.
  • The Idaho legislative Capital Punishment study committee put together a lovely report on the actual costs.

A Georgia man was recently executed because he shot a Laurens County Sheriff’s deputy 9 times and it was recorded on a dash cam. The defendant didn’t deny doing so either. This is certainly a ‘slam dunk,’ if you will, but at what cost? At the cost of potentially taking the life of a man or woman who was not guilty.  And a VERY high cost when we aren’t always ‘sure.’ 144 people on death row wrongfully in 42 years doesn’t seem like that high of a number. Unfortunately 1 is far too many.

So I suppose I am unsure if I am actually against the death penalty, but under our flawed legal system, I simply cannot support it.


3 thoughts on “I Flip-Flopped on the Death Penalty

  1. Ron McClellan

    It would seem to me not unreasonable to have a standard that rises well above “beyond a reasonable doubt” in death sentence cases. But the Justice system really is “broken” on virtually every level, as Jessica alluded to. I’m “living that” now, albeit at a Superior Civil Court level.

    As a pro se litigant in the matter (not my first choice for legal representation believe me) It really seems more like a “Litigational trivia” game, where the person who knows the “Georgia Rules of Civil Procedure” the best wins, and “actual Justice” isn’t really all that big a consideration. I can’t imagine it would be all that much different in a capital crime court proceeding where someones life hangs in the balance.

    One would think that as time has passed, our Judicial system would become more streamlined and fair as the decades have passed. Nope. It gets more convoluted, complex, and “actual Justice” moves further and further down the list of priorities.

  2. Pingback: The LaFayette Underground » Update: Jan. 27, 2015 » News Beneath the News in LaFayette & Walker County Georgia

  3. chamblee54

    I write about the death penalty at my blog. The bottom line is … the State of Georgia is not smart enough to properly use the death penalty. The song and dance about getting the supplies for executions from a secret compounding pharmacy. There are the endless appeals. There are the expenses. (Colorado has already spent millions of dollars on the Aurora theater shooting. The shooter wants to plead guilty and get life in prison. The state is determined to get the death penalty, and is spending millions of dollars to do so.) The sorry spectacle of executing a man with an iq below room temperature. The list goes on and on. There are some horrible men out there, who arguably do deserve the death penalty. (There is also one woman on Georgia’s death row. It is my understanding that her appeals are exhausted, and may be strapped on the gurney soon. )
    Bill Clinton used to say that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. That is how I see the death penalty. Save it for the horrible cases, and let the compounding pharmacy make an honest living the rest of the time. However, when you have a facility in place, you are more likely to use it. When you have a standing army, you are going to be looking for wars. When you have an abortion clinic, women will use it. If you have the death penalty, some glory seeking district attorney is going to want to use it. Maybe this out of control public attorney is the one who should have mystery drugs pumped into his veins.


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