Any man may make a mistake; none but a fool will persist in it. Italian Proverb
In the book, The Verdict Is In, I detail why the modern administration of the death penalty is clearly untenable. The five main reasons are:
1. The high financial cost to taxpayers who fund death penalty prosecutions;
2. The inefficient bureaucratic administration of the death penalty runs counter to the values of limited government;
3. The delay of justice for victims and society after waiting 20 plus years for an execution to take place;
4. It does not serve as the slightest deterrent to violent crime; and
5. The risk that someone, who is innocent or not guilty, will be executed. Since 1973, about 160 people sent to death row nationwide have been exonerated according to the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center.
Problematic prosecutions and a heavily publicized exoneration led then Republican Illinois Governor George Ryan in 2000 to impose a 10-year execution moratorium. In 2011, the state abolished capital punishment.
However, last week, Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said that he was seeking to reinstate the death penalty for mass murder and killing a police officer.
He wants to create a category of homicide called “death penalty murder,” which could apply to adults who kill police officers or more than one person. Guilt must be determined “beyond all doubt,” rather than the Constitutional “reasonable doubt” requirement. Rauner said that people in those cases “deserve to have their life taken.”
Even if the Democrat controlled General Assembly agrees, it would be difficult for Illinois to resume executions due to a shortage of lethal injection drugs caused by a sales boycott by major pharmaceutical companies.
Yet, the governor persists.
Why is he doing this? Since the chance of passing any aspects of his death penalty proposal is very low, it seems that a political message is being sent here. The death penalty provision is becoming part of election-year campaigning as Rauner seeks to court conservatives who abandoned him during the primary and held him to a narrow victory over state Rep. Jeanne Ives.
If this is a campaign tactic, I can only think of a handful of worse decisions since many of the conservatives he is courting oppose the death penalty.
Years ago, most conservative voters either favored or strongly favored the death penalty. Today, many conservatives have pushed to halt the death penalty, primarily because of the wasteful spending and government control over an individual’s life.
“Illinois studied its death penalty for over a decade and rightfully determined that it was broken beyond repair. There is simply no good reason to bring it back and doing so would run counter to conservative principles of fiscal responsibility, limited government, and the valuing life,” said Heather Beaudoin, national coordinator of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.
I can understand why some people would like to see the death penalty reinstated in Illinois or in any other state that has abolished it or just has it “on the books.”
When a family sees a child murdered, a police officer shot, a heinous string of killings, or mass murder, the emotional response naturally turns toward vengeance and strong justice. Some people kill so heinously that only death seems to constitute an appropriate response from society.
Additionally, the administration of the death penalty by society is Biblically sound.
But, laws based on logic and facts serve our people profoundly better than laws passed based on emotions or for political reasons.
I don’t expect the people of the Prairie State to ever see the death penalty brought back to life.
As he persists in his mistake, I also don’t expect to see Gov. Bruce Rauner taking the oath of office again next year.