Sunday, October 21, 2007

Alabama's fierce death row battle

Alabama, like several other states, continues to battle for the right to execute its citizens, even in the face of evidence that the death penalty experiment is an abject failure.

read more digg story

Here is a quote by Clay Crenshaw, Alabama's deputy attorney general in charge of capital cases, from the article worth focusing on - "The reason to have the death penalty is to keep those people who commit these violent acts off of the street, and hopefully prevent other people from committing those type of crimes."

The first part of the quote, keeping dangerous people off the street, can be achieved just as effectively and with greater cost savings by imposing life sentences. One of the many significant findings from the Capital Jury Project is that some juries vote to impose death sentences as a way to ensure a life sentence. Obviously more accurate information about how the process actually works should be made available to capital jurors.

The second part of the quote, hopefully preventing future homicides, is equally troubling. Public policy involving peoples' lives based on hope? What century are we living in? I have to question how any elected or appointed official whose responsibilities include administration of the death penalty could ignore the vast research on deterrence and the death penalty.

Two points that need to be reiterated - the death penalty is not a specific deterrent. It is a form of incapacitation. Second, the research strongly suggests that capital punishment is no more or no less of an effective deterrent than is life in prison. Therefore, we can achieve the goals of deterrence and incapacitation just as effectively, and more efficiently, by imposing life sentences. This option also provides for the the ability to reverse a sentence in the event of a wrongful conviction and would bring us closer to the world community, which is rapidly abandoning the death penalty.

Given Alabama's record of human rights violations, it would do well to stop hoping for justice and inject rationality and accountability into its entire criminal justice system.

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