Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Texas Ruling Signals Indefinite Halt to Executions

A reprieve issued yesterday was seen as a sign that the state’s judges were taking guidance from the Supreme Court and putting off imminent executions.

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The quote from a pro-death penalty group is one of the most accurate statements they have ever issued. I am sure that it was not their intention, but the quote actually provides another reason for abolishing the death penalty.

While we have no data on percentages of murder victims' families and friends regarding their preferences for punishment, we do know that not everyone wants to see the offender executed. Groups such as Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation and Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights are but two examples of the opposition to the death penalty. But for those families and friends of murder victims who do advocate for the death penalty, doesn't they system victimize them for its own gain? While I am not in a position to tell any one how they should feel toward the person who took the life of a loved one, I do think that the criminal justice system exploits their grief, prevents or delays their recovery, and takes them on a "roller coaster ride" that may last decades. Is this the best that the criminal justice system can offer the victims' families and friends?

It is also somewhat of a relief to see that at least a few officials in Texas are getting the message about executions. As I've written earlier, the State of Texas and the manner in which it administers the death have done more to undermine public support than perhaps any other tactic that could have been devised. Executing the innocent, the poor, the poorly represented, inmates who file motions 20 minutes late, and now, botching those executions with a chemical cocktail that violates the 8th Amendment, while ignoring the U.S. Supreme Court only hastens the demise of capital punishment.

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