The death penalty

The nation’s busiest death chamber in Huntsville, Texas almost resumed the execution of convicted killers yesterday.

About 90 minutes before he was to be put to death, Derrick Sonnier was granted a reprieve because other cases challenging the state’s lethal injection procedures are still pending. The Texas Criminal Court of Appeals decided not to go ahead with the execution when those cases have not been decided.

Don’t get me wrong. I fully support capital punishment for heinous crimes; some offenders just cannot be rehabilitated and we need to get them out of society permanently. We must be sure that we only execute the guilty because we cannot reverse it. Seventeen or more wrongly-convicted defendants in Dallas County have been freed after the Innocence Project proved their DNA did not match the evidence. I fear it is only a matter of time until we discover that an innocent person has been executed – and that will be the end of the death penalty.

Texas recently passed a law providing for the penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole for what are now capital offenses. Opponents said having this option available might make juries less likely to consider capital punishment. I have to disagree. The Texas legislature only meets for several months every two years, so we must not wait until the death penalty is gone to put another option for dealing with the incorrigible criminal in place. It is important to have life without the possibility of parole on the books so that ex post facto considerations will not make the commutation of death sentences result in too many cases of immediate parole if capital punishment is abolished.

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4 Responses to “The death penalty”

  1. Tim Ramsey Says:

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog.

    Tim Ramsey

  2. Bill Says:

    Tim – welcome. Comment early and often…

  3. dillimax690 Says:

    i believe that the accused has many tools.. there are appeals for appeals. especially cases involving the death penalty. if a felon was convicted, got his chance for an appeal, lost that too… then hang him and be done with it. my taxes are already bailing out AIG, FreddieMAC, FannieMAE i don’t want to pay for the electric/ water/ grocery bill on a guy sentenced to death. not to mention the relief of the families victims.

  4. Bill Says:

    dillimax690: That’s the problem with the death penalty, isn’t it. It is so final; so irreversable that we feel the need to go to great lengths to have a reasonable belief we do not execute an innocent person.

    Some want no death penalty for anyone for anything. Fewer (I hope) want to punish someone, anyone, for every crime. Not being a relative of a murder victim, I cannot even remotely see how knowing that an innocent person has been punished will provide any sort of relief because that means the real perpetrator is still loose out there somewhere and probably continuing to offend. Victim rights groups should insist on safeguards to protect the wrongly accused

    If I was king, there will not be a death penalty for a first offense unless there is solid DNA evidence or the police arrive on the scene and arrest the suspect in the act of the murder. An arrest after a pursuit introduces the possiblity of arresting an innocent person. In return, the death penalty will be almost certain for repeat killers because an innocent person cannot be expected to be unlucky enough to be falsely convicted so many times.

    Bill

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