Sep 8, 2008

Stop The Death Penalty Now.

“An eye for an eye would make the whole world blind.”--Mahatma Gandhi On September 16th the state of Georgia intends to execute Jack Alderman, the longest-serving death row inmate in the United States. Mr. Alderman was convicted in the 1974 killing of his wife. Mr. Alderman had no record prior to this conviction and was convicted largely on the testimony of a mentally ill man, John Arthur Brown, who admits to being the killer, but claims Alderman was an accomplice. Mr. Brown was given leniency for his testimony and was released from prison after serving just twelve years, despite the fact that he had a long record of violence toward women. Brown committed suicide in 2000 while under investigation for child molestation. Jack Alderman, aged 57, has been on death row for 34 years and has been a model inmate during that time. I don't know whether or not he committed this crime, nor does it really matter at this point. How would justice be served by killing him now? Ironically, Jack Alderman is the only living person connected to this case. The sentencing judge, prosecutor, defense attorney and co-conspirator are all dead. Also on September 23rd Georgia intends to kill Troy Davis for the 1989 murder of a policeman in Savannah, Georgia. The case against Davis rests entirely upon the testimony of nine eyewitnesses, seven of whom have recanted their identification of Davis as the killer. Several of the eyewitnesses have filed affidavits stating that police investigators coerced their original testimonies. A murder that occurred 19-years ago, should not be avenged today on the testimony of people who no longer believe what they said they saw. The process of the State killing convicts is fraught with error and the death of one innocent man is a shame upon all of us. Surely, after all the exonerations that have come in the past few years, we should have lost confidence in our system to get it right all of the time. When it comes to the death penalty, getting it right every time should be the only standard. Things in this blog represented to be fact, may or may not actually be true. The writer is frequently wrong, sometimes just full of it, but always judgmental and cranky


Adrianne said...

Thank you for writing about this difficult and sensitive topic - I completely agree with you. The state tells us that we can't kill each other -- which is a good rule -- but then, when someone breaks that rule, the state turns around and . . . kills them?!? How does that make sense? When you combine that internal lack of logic with the fact that our criminal justice system is far from perfect when it comes to assigning guilt in the first place, the death penalty seems nothing short of barbaric. I know we like to tell ourselves that ours is a civilized society, but the fact that we still have the death penalty seriously calls that view into question.

Reya Mellicker said...

Yes, people make mistakes, and death is permanent.

What really bothers me about executions is how cold-blooded they are. A crime of passion makes more sense to me (though I'm never in favor of murder).

To stand there and flip a switch or turn on the gas or inject a person with poison - that scares me to the bone.

Thank you for this!

Kurt said...

I wonder what President McCain's position will be on this.

padraig said...

Morally, I have no problem with the concept of the death penalty, excepting the fact that any crime (in my opinion) worthy of execution requires a particular level of intent, and it is impossible to judge intent absolutely unless you're a mind reader.

Practically, I don't think it can ever be implemented properly; no matter what your intentions are in agreeing (as a community) that a standard of punishment can be implemented justly, you're institutionalizing something that just simply should not be institutionalized. No matter what restrictions you place on the punishment, you're simply decreasing the likelihood that you apply it to an innocent person... you can't eliminate that likelihood entirely.

There is no crime greater than the execution of an innocent man. More to the point, I can imagine no greater horror for a citizen than being executed by the system of justice that you've implicitly trusted to defend you. Being killed by a lynch mob, there you have some solace that the people killing you are outside the bounds of acceptable society.

Being unjustly killed by the agents of justice is the ultimate breakdown of the social contract.

Steve said...

The death penalty is barbaric. It's nothing but cheap revenge. We can and should be a better society than that.

padraig said...

@ Steve

I agree with your first statement; I'm not so sure about the second.

Justice means different thing to different people; some people think of justice as revenge, some as punishment, some as rehabilitation, and finally some as simple protection. In the U.S., at least, our system of justice incorporates all of these elements.

I'm not convinced in any way that a system based only upon one of those four elements would work in a stable society. Revenge itself might be pretty barbaric, but there is no such thing as a completely enlightened society.

Julia said...

I have been against the death penalty for as long as I was aware of having an opinion on the issue. I've always wondered if I would feel differently if someone I knew were murdered. Then last year my friend was shot in the head during an armed robbery. The prosecutor is seeking the death penalty. I saw a picture of the two men in the newspaper. I feel sick and sad about it, but I'm still against the death penalty.

Annie Ha said...

"In fact the most glaring weakness is that no matter how efficient and fair the death penalty may seem in theory, in actual practice it is primarily inflicted upon the weak, the poor, the ignorant and against racial minorities."
-Pat Brown

Steve said...

@ padraig

"There is no such thing as a completely enlightened society."

There are many, many societies that are a lot more "enlightened" than ours on this point, which should be a source of embarrassment to us. Shouldn't enlightened justice be our goal? Everyone's goal?