Dead wrong

I must admit, I’ve struggled to decide how to tackle one of perhaps the most fundamental differences between my UK upbringing and what continues to be one of the most egregious demonstrations of rugged, religious and notionally righteous Texas, it’s use of the death penalty. Although I’m now a confirmed atheist, I was bought up in a Church of England, Christian family. So while I don’t believe in God, morally I believe in “Christian values”.

With Texas executing some 40% of the total executed in America; with America being the country which legally executes more people than any other; it is almost inevitable that Texas leads the world in wrongful executions, the most recent of which, the Cameron Todd Willingham case is morally, socially, politically, and legally troubling. The LA Times has a good review of the issues.

Current Texas governor Rick Perry, has presided over more death penalty executions than any governor in U.S. History. Just this month, the State executed Suzanne Basso, Basso was the fifth woman to be executed in Texas since 1982 and the 14th nationwide, she was the second person in executed in Texas in 2014.

and then today, a friend shared this on facebook, it is an open letter from Dan Jensen to Washington state Governor Inslee. Thank you Dan for expressing what so many of us think and feel. Next stop Texas!

Kudos to Governor Inslee for putting a moratorium on enforcement of the death penalty in our state. While I grant that there are indeed crimes that are heinous enough to deserve it, I don’t think the cost to society is worth it.

First and foremost, there is the risk of executing someone who was wrongly convicted. The death penalty once imposed can’t be taken back. The risk of wrongly executing one person is not worth the justified execution of dozens of the guilty.

Next is the cost of prosecuting the cases. Is society’s need for closure (revenge?) worth it?

In practice the death penalty is more likely to be imposed on minorities and/or the poor who can’t afford the best defense attorneys and are forced to rely upon overburdened public defenders.

Those who claim to be pro life should oppose the death penalty and also support universal access to healthcare. It seems incongruous to me that many ‘pro life’ conservatives support the death penalty.

I believe life without the possibility of parole is an appropriate punishment for those who commit terrible crimes. Is it always the most satisfying option for a society that seeks closure/revenge for horrible crimes? I concede it is not, and I admit that I am lucky to not have been put in the position of being affected by such a crime. I hope and pray that I would be able to accept something less than the death penalty as punishment for someone who killed a person I love. As a Christian, I believe that is what I would be called to do. It would be a heavy cross, but one that I know God would help me carry.

Therefore, we need to move beyond the need for ‘eye for an eye’ revenge and seek closure in other ways that are probably healthier for victims and for society as well. I hope that the moratorium on executions in Washington is permanent, and will be confirmed by legislation eliminating it soon.

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