Thursday, November 18, 2010

Innocent Men Being Killed by the State

I've never had a really strong opinion about capital punishment. This probably comes as a bit of a surprise considering the fact I have strong opinions on just about everything, but for some reason I've always felt uncomfortable taking a solid stance and sticking to it. Deep down I question the idea of whether or not the state should have the power to kill people, but then I read stories like this one and I find myself too emotional to think clearly about the matter. I guess ultimately I realize that it's a complicated subject that I think people too quickly make their minds up about.

It is stories like this one that make me against the death penalty in the end though:
Claude Jones always claimed that he wasn’t the man who walked into an East Texas liquor store in 1989 and shot the owner. He professed his innocence right up until the moment he was strapped to a gurney in the Texas execution chamber and put to death on Dec. 7, 2000. His murder conviction was based on a single piece of forensic evidence recovered from the crime scene—a strand of hair—that prosecutors claimed belonged to Jones.

But DNA tests completed this week at the request of the Observer and the New York-based Innocence Project show the hair didn’t belong to Jones after all. The day before his death in December 2000, Jones asked for a stay of execution so the strand of hair could be submitted for DNA testing. He was denied by then-Gov. George W. Bush.
For me, killing even one man mistakenly makes the entire system worthy of questioning. So this isn't even a moral or philosophical dilemma, but an issue of practicalities. We should not support a system that kills people if that system is 100% accurate. Simple. Ironically it seems to be people on the right who stand firmly by capital punishment. Once again proving "limited government" means nothing.

Wow, this post was all over the place. It is what it is I guess. It's just all so heartbreaking..


  1. What boggles my mind is that there are so many people who are 'pro-life', yet support the death penalty.

    I'm against the death penalty. I've seen more than one story about someone who served the majority of their life either awaiting the death penalty or being executed, only to find out because of DNA testing that they didn't commit the crime. I think our legal system needs a massive overhaul. It seems like law enforcement is more concerned that someone pay for a crime, not necessarily the right person. An innocent man spending even one day in jail is wrong and unfair, an innocent man spending 30, 40, 50 years or being executed should not happen.

    Not only does the wrong person lose their life, by sitting in jail or being killed, but the person who committed the crime gets a free pass. The law believes they've caught the criminal, so the investigation is done. It seems we're more concerned with the illusion of security than we are actual security.

  2. A doctor friend of mine recently commented that our healthcare costs (bear with me, I have a point related to this discussion!) are so high because of lawsuit-happy American's who always need to assign blame to someone--anyone--for the bad that happens in their life. I thought of this when reading sarahbear's comment about law enforcement wanting someone to pay for the crime--and if it's not the right someone, well, that doesn't always seem to bother them, does it?

    Back to the death penalty: Too many cases are decided on evidence that is shaky at best. I have a little knowledge of the Troy Davis case because the drummer of my favorite band, Keane, is an outspoken advocate for ending the death penalty and finding a way to help get Troy Davis exonerated for a crime in which the witnesses who put him in jail have no recanted their testimony.

    In the end, no matter how heinous the crime, I can't support using killing as a punishment for killing. This "eye for an eye" mentality has to stop. Plus, it's proven that keeping someone in lockup for life is cheaper, eventually, than killing them, what with all the legal wrangling, etc.

    There is no logic in this country.

  3. Exactly Meg. Your point about the health care issues are definitely related to this discussion. Not only does it affect health care costs when people get sue happy, it means the courts are tied up handling pointless cases instead of trying people who have actually broken the law. It's a waste of resources.

  4. I totally agree that the illusion of safety is often more important than actually being "safe" (whatever the hell that means). Isn't this why we're being felt up at airports? We'd rather go through that then accept the fact we can't control everything. The health care issue shows how this need for certainty goes less noticed in other areas of our lives. Another example is how afraid people are to say they simply don't know about something. God forbid a politician admit they aren't an expert on everything. It's ridiculous.

    I can understand using the death penalty for traitors or cases where the crime is especially heinous (like the torturing of children) as long as there is more than one eye witness and DNA testing, but as you point out Meg the system is pretty defunct. I think the entire prison system is a travesty though.


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