There was a time when I agreed wholeheartedly with capital punishment. But then about twelve years ago, I had a change of heart when I started to research the issue. I come from a state where capital punishment is a very big deal. My senior class trip was to the state penitentiary, where we actually toured death row. Some of my classmates actually sat in the electric chair.
I started to look into death row cases and it occurred to me that capital punishment is unfairly administered. It doesn't save money. It's not a deterrant to violent crime. It's hurtful to the prisoner's family and is a barbaric spectacle to the public. And it gives criminals 15 minutes of fame that they don't usually deserve.
This week happens to be a big one in terms of executions. Last night, Virginia executed its first female prisoner in 98 years. This morning, Georgia has probably already executed a man who tried to kill himself the other day. His suicide attempt won him some quality time in a Pro-straint chair and extra guards to watch him, just to make sure the state can kill him.
What's really disturbing, however, is the perverse delight some people seem to take when the government commits homicide. I was watching the comments last night and noticed how many jokes were being made as Teresa Lewis met her fate. Lots of people were making emotional appeals for and against the death penalty. I think my favorite one was someone saying someone who is anti-death penalty would feel differently if it were his or her family member who was killed. I would submit that the same could be said for someone whose loved one was on death row. Doesn't it hurt the families of the condemned when their loved one is put to death?
And then there are people who are just plain ignorant about the death penalty and spout off fractured facts. One guy claims that in Russia, when you are sentenced to death, you get shot within two days. Russia has not executed anyone since 1996. While the death penalty is legally allowed in Russia, there is a moratorium on it and it doesn't appear that it will be reinstated anytime soon.
Of course, Iran's president-- whose name I can neither spell nor properly pronounce-- used Lewis's case to call Americans hypocrites, especially since so many Americans were outraged by Iran's plan to stone a woman for adultery. But then, there's a big difference between adultery and murder, too...
I just wish the death penalty would go away. In my view, very few people are so dangerous that they need to be put to death for the public's safety. And those who are that dangerous could be in states where there is no death penalty or it's largely superfluous. What the death penalty does, besides running up a lot of bills for taxpayers, is create a barbaric spectacle for the world to see. Its usefulness has passed.