Friday, June 25, 2010

Streamlined Death

The governor of Utah is for a more streamlined death penalty. I suppose the specter of a 25-year death row occupant being gunned down last Friday, was a bit of an embarrassment for Herbert. The Governor is wanting to pursue limits for appeals of Death Row inmates. Here are a handful of quotes from Governor Herbert on the matter:

"25 years is just too long, there ought to be a process that’s more timely."

“It’s just too long and it becomes too much of a circus atmosphere. … And it doesn’t serve the families very well.”

“I think justice delayed is justice denied,”
To be honest, I think the governor is partially right. The death penalty has become a circus, and it is far more expensive to the system than it is worth. If we are going to embrace barbaric 19th century justice, than we should be barbarically expeditious in carrying those sentences out. Yes, the state would run the risk of killing falsely condemned individuals, but its a price the state needs to be prepared to deal with if Utah decides to "streamline" sending convicts to the eternities.

Abandoning the Death Penalty

On the other hand, maybe the governor should consider removing the death penalty all together. Information from the Death Penalty Information Center suggests that states without the death penalty have consistently lower murder rates that state that have a death penalty -- apparently impending death hasn't been as great a deterrent to murder as many people think.

Utah doesn't sentence very many individuals to die. Between 1985 and today Utah has 9 live prisoners on death row, and Utah has carried out the death sentence 6 times for a grand total of 15 death sentences in 25 years. Between 1996 and 2008, Utah averaged 54.21 murders a year. So, if Utah only hands the death sentence out in a small minority of cases and these cases end up costing the state its reputation and millions in legal fees -- why should the state continue the practice?

The answer for some may very well be the outdated notion of blood-atonement and for others it is simple vigilante-ism. Murder is an awful crime, and (usually) murderers that are granted a death sentence are guilty of an extra level of brutality against their victims. I'm sure the abrupt termination of these monster's lives provides at least momentary satisfaction for retribution for the family members of condemned murderers victims. However, is justice truly being served or is it the appetite for retribution that is being satiated? For those who cling to the blood-atonement notion, maybe it needs to be reminded (assuming the belief in blood-atonement is connected to a belief in God) that all men will be rewarded for their works in the eternities -- that includes those who use the death sentence when it is not warranted.

Personally I think we should abandon the death penalty. Although there will continue to be horrific crimes that warrant it's use (like the Sloop case) I'm don't believe the monetary and ethical costs are worth it.

For example, in Ronnie Lee Gardner's case, he was on trial for 2nd degree murder for a bar robbery and he killed again trying to escape an impending guilty conviction and a long prison term -- these all sound like 2nd degree murder to me. Combine that to the disallowed mitigating evidence of a screwed up life at his trial and we have misused the death penalty. There is no doubt that the man was a slime, but I'm pretty sure that the death penalty may not have been warranted in his case.

No comments: