It’s time to grow up

As I read the last paragraph of an article in this morning’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the single-drug method for execution in Ohio, I was reminded of a line in the Gethsemane song,  I only want to say, from the Rock Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar:

Show me there’s a reason
For your wanting me to die
You’re far too keen on where and how
But not so hot on why

The writer of the article says at the end, “A milestone has passed. Now maybe the long death penalty debate on ‘how’ can return to ‘whether.'”

Those are my sentiments as well. For the past few years, as suit after suit was heard in the courts, the focus has been on the three-drug protocol for execution used in most states. Is it unconstitutional? Does it amount to cruel and unusual punishment? I figured, Why not? Anything that holds any part of the process up to the light is bound to pay off in the long run. I also believe that anything not founded on truth will eventually collapse under its own weight.

But now, I’m afraid, the Ohio result will open the flood gates. Attorneys general in several states will feel a need (for some unknown reason) to clear death row backlogs. It’s as though their constituents have any idea who is on death row or what their crimes may have been. The AGs must picture an angry crowd, with flickering torches, milling about the jailhouse door.

The facts of the matter are these: Walk up to anyone on any street in Missouri and ask, 1.) How many men are on death row?, 2.) Who is the next person likely to be executed?, 3.) Who was the last person executed (as recently as May 20)?, 4.) What did that person do? 5.) Where are death row prisoners housed?, 6.) Where do executions take place? After six shrugs, or six I dunnos, you’d certainly wonder what the point is.

But, our state (and our society in general) is big on revenge … even when people don’t know who is being executed or why. There is an irrational fear of, and a need to get rid of, people who pose no threat, are defenseless, couldn’t afford good legal representation. There is a persistent myth that an execution gives a victim’s family closure. All this in the face of the fact that the United States is the only developed western nation that executes its own citizens. Isn’t that nice?

Should capital offenders ever go free? No. I feel they have forfeited their right to live freely among us.

Is an alternative sentence of life without parole a piece of cake? No. Visit a maximum security prison sometime.

Is it more expensive to house a capital offender for the rest of his life than to execute him? No. It is a mere fraction of the execution costs to house an offender until he dies.

Is the death penalty a common sentence for murder? No. Less that 2% of murders result in a death sentence.

Getting back to the beginning, “whether” rather than “how,” I  hope that our country will mature out of our wild west temperament. It’s time to grow up and realize when we have adequately defended ourselves against dangerous criminals.

There is little justification for depriving another family of a loved one if losing a loved one is so hurtful. Vengeance doesn’t bring anyone back. The pangs of loneliness for and the sense of loss of a loved one who was a victim of murder won’t go away because another’s life was snuffed out.

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