On its face, I am a supporter for capital punishment. It is Biblically based, serves justice in some circumstances, and ends the lives of some of the most evil men roaming the face of the Earth.
I care very little for the opinion of the international community, which overwhelming frowns upon the death penalty. I also do not agree with “anti-death penalty activists.”
However, the ultimate criminal sanction has become too problematic to continue to implement. Most of these problems should concern conservatives like me. Consider the five following problems associated with capital punishment:
1. WRONGFUL EXECUTIONS – As a conservative, I believe that the government should have a minimal role in our lives. When it comes to executing a human, the State exercises the most intrusive action possible. While this type of governmental intrusiveness would be fine with if the condemned were 100 percent guilty, this has not been the case.
Since the late 1970’s, almost 150 men and women have been released from death row nationally. DNA testing has been at the forefront of these corrections of justice. I wonder how many people have been executed who were actually innocent over the years.
2. HIGH COST TO TAXPAYERS – This may be the most glaring problem with the death penalty. Death penalty trials have lengthy pre-trial proceedings, require hundreds of hours of work from defense attorneys (who are usually public defenders), and take up a tremendous amount of the trial court’s time.
Additionally, the cost of maintaining death row and supervising condemned prisoners is very high. It costs far less to keep an inmate in general population or even special housing units for the rest of his life.
3. JUSTICE DELAYED FOR VICTIMS – Death penalty cases last for years, even decades, because of the very lengthy and complicated appeals process. The legal process prior to executions can actually prolong the agony experienced by the victims’ families and friends.
In capital cases, there is no closure for many years to come.
4. INHERENT DIFFERENCES IN JURISDICTIONS
In Georgia, some counties seek death sentences in many cases while other counties never do. A person can murder a victim in one county where the DA will always seek a life sentence. Sometimes, if the same murder, with the same set of facts, were committed in the adjacent county, the DA would seek a death sentence.
Additionally, some counties often lack the funds or prosecutorial experience and expertise to seek a death sentence.
This is an arbitrary system of administering the ultimate punishment throughout our state. It lacks consistency, fundamental fairness, and is illogical.
5. DETERRENCE THEORY DEBUNKED
One of the major historical theories in support of capital punishment is called deterrence. The theory of deterrence suggests that criminals will not commit heinous crimes in states that impose death sentences because of the fear of execution.
However, scientific studies have consistently failed to demonstrate that executions deter people from committing violent crimes.
So, there are some significant problems with our current death penalty system in the United States.
There are also solutions. For instance, the General Assembly could change the law in Georgia to require mandatory life without parole sentences for certain crimes, such as malice murder, when the State can prove a number of aggravating circumstances (like the killing of a child, excessive brutality in a case, etc.).
It would be wise for Georgians to look for less expensive, fairer, and more logical solutions to the problem of serious violent offenders.