The Death Penalty

Unpublished; written June 1, 1999
Dear Editor:

The editorial against the death penalty in the May 28 Free Lance was a perfect example of why some people refer to the press as "liberal media". It pointed out that twelve men were freed from Death Row in Illinois. Among those men was one who confessed to raping and killing a woman, but later recanted because the police allegedly beat the confession out him.

What the editorial fails to recognize is that the system ultimately worked in all those cases. The twelve men were cleared and were not put to death. That's hardly an argument to eliminate the death penalty. It may, however, be a reason to investigate the Illinois police system. But why bother trying to root out the underlying cause of these men's convictions? It's much easier to just scrap the death penalty.

Also, the alleged rapist was freed because of DNA evidence. Again, the system worked. In fact, with improved technology such as DNA testing, I would hope that more and more innocent people will be correctly freed and more and more criminals will be properly found guilty. An improving trend should not be cause to eliminate the death penalty.

The article also cited a statistic from Amnesty International claiming America's death penalty system was racist. The statistic said that 80% of those put to death were accused of murdering whites, even though murder victims are almost equally divided among whites and blacks.

While that may show that some people view white murder victims more sympathetically than black murder victims, it is at best an indirect racial effect. There was no claim of direct racism, which would show that a disproportionate number of blacks are sentenced to die. Even if direct racism was shown, wouldn't it be better to fix the underlying cause than to just scrap the whole system?

But why bother suggesting ways of fixing the process when it's easier to throw the baby out with the bath water? This isn't new, of course. Constant harping by a couple of individuals about closing the School of the Americas follows that pattern. They ignore the beneficial aspects of training a country's soldiers (to make that country more self-reliant, and possibly avoiding having to send American troops there), preferring to scrap the system instead of fixing the admittedly awful abuses. These don't have to be all-or-nothing issues.

The closing paragraph got to what I suspect is the author's real objection to the death penalty, calling it barbaric. Of course, it is no more barbaric than the crimes it is applied to. Or perhaps the author feels that killers like Richard Allen Davis, Timothy McVeigh, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy, and Charles Ng deserve better treatment than their victims, and should be supported by the public for the rest of their lives. I feel these people got what they deserved.

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