Uptown Mosaic Magazine

An Uncommon Mind

Death Be the Penalty (Remix)

September 22, 2011 by Omar Scott in An Uncommon Mind, Politics

Aside from Rep. Ron Paul’s blasé attitude about a person dying from the lack of health care and people cheering the most galling thing on display in the recent Republican debates is Gov. Rick Perry’s pride in his state’s death penalty record.  When the moderator mentioned Texas had put more people to death than any other state, Perry puffed his chest out and offered that Texas smirk George W. Bush made so popular.  And the audience… cheered?

But it’s neither the bloodthirsty response of ultraconservatives that makes me question the death penalty, nor the recent execution of Troy Davis that drives my opposition to the death penalty.  State sponsored murder shouldn’t serve as punishment for any crime no matter the situation.  Yeah, that’s a broad brush I just painted; but to me the death penalty is just wrong and should be abolished.

The death penalty doesn’t provide justice for society, the family of the victim or the perpetrator of a crime.  Are we really better off if a murderer pays the “ultimate price”?  Is a death for a death the way to fight crime in this country?  Actually we should ask ourselves if the death penalty is fighting crime at all or is it a legalized revenge fantasy.

My opposition to the death penalty stems from a few different roots.  I can’t move beyond the fact that the death penalty for some is pure and simple revenge.   That should not be the role of our justice system.  Time and time again I hear, “you wouldn’t feel that way if it were your family” or “families who suffer like that need a release”.   Well the death of the person who committed a heinous crime against my loved one is not bring my family member back so what good is it for that person to die?  So the murderer’s family suffers like I did?  All life, no matter how some of us choose to waste it, is precious and shouldn’t be snuffed out so a victim’s relatives can feel closure.

The main basis for my opposition to the death penalty is my belief that the justice system in this country is unfair.  Wealthy people with access to the best lawyers money can buy and intimate knowledge of the system get breaks poor people can’t even imagine.  Meanwhile poor people, black people and Latino people generally suffer.  Poorer people tend to get overworked or incompetent public defenders which basically doom them to defeat.

Of course the looming specter of race is involved as well.  We all know, though many of us refuse to admit, the indignities black people suffer at the hands of the justice system.  Of course that transfers to death penalty cases, where a black person is more likely to get the death penalty for taking the life of a white person than killing a black person.

Mix in the chance that the accused might actually be innocent of the crime and you’ll understand why I’m against this type of punishment.  Let’s be honest, witnesses lie or have faulty recollections, cops screw up evidence or overlook details that might find the real killers.  There are so many recently discovered cases of people being wrongfully jailed that I’m surprised we’re not asking more hard questions about crime and punishment in America.  I’m sure there are hundreds more cases waiting to be discovered.  Yes, some of those wrongly convicted people are probably sitting on death row too.  What’s a worse crime than condemning an innocent person to death?

The sad, unnecessary execution of Troy Davis should be the beginning of a national anti-death penalty movement.  We shouldn’t stop working until state governments no longer permit legalized murder of convicted criminals under any circumstance.  It’s barbaric and unbecoming of the civilized nation we claim to be.


Death Be The Penalty originally appeared on Landz Dwelling in 1998

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