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The Wrongful Execution Argument, December 12, 1999 :: Ben Turner's Soapbox

 

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archived soapbox: December 12, 1999
"The Wrongful Execution Argument" [permalink]
    keywords: Texas, capital punishment, law
    soapbox #: 217
    written: February 25, 2000
    words: 1139

"The Wrongful Execution Argument", an Essay

Today Texas put some great-grandmother to death for killing her fifth husband. In Texas, they don't care what age you are or how many cookies you've baked.

Now as far as executions go, aren't there more important fish to fry? I mean, it seems as though you'd have fewer wrongful executions if you only carried capital punishment out on people who've committed multiple murders. In this case, the woman was most likely guilty (but what do I know?), but surely there are worse people out there who deserve capital punishment more.

What of this notion of wrongful execution, anyway? Every time there's an execution in Texas, the same people come out and decry it as hypocrisy, opposing the word of God, killing an innocent person, etc. We have to put up with the same debate from both sides and everyone just gets pissed off.

Today, a lot of the daytraders on IRC were complaining about how Governor Bush is the most prolific murderer of the time right now with over one hundred murders. They couldn't believe another capital punishment was being carried out. And they clung fiercely onto the argument of wrongful execution.

I have a huge problem with that. Wrongful execution is such a weak argument to employ. Basically what it's saying is that the justice system condemns many innocent people (which is true) and sometimes those innocent people make it all the way to Death Row. And yes, when an innocent person is executed, it's tragic. People against capital punishment are sucked into arguing that because innocent people CAN and ARE executed, we should do away with it altogether. Perhaps instead of killing potential innocents, we can just do away with capital punishment and leave people in jail for the rest of their lives. Hey, maybe they'll even be found innocent one day.

Hell, we all know that there are thousands of people readily willing to look back over old criminal cases and find innocent people hidden away in life sentences, right? Right guys? Anyone...? Where'd you go?

The people who argue for wrongful execution have their energies misplaced. Instead of going after reforming the criminal law system, where innocent people have a better chance to prove themselves to be innocent, and where much can be done to make cases more fair and beneficial to the defendant, they go after capital punishment itself, which is a final act, not a decision-making process.

The assumption is that innocent people are found guilty all the time and that they should be given a whole life to prove their innocence. How many convicted criminals serving life sentences are eventually found innocent? Who really CARES about criminals who have been in jail, essentially left to rot? Can a trader who sits on his ass every day regularly trading $30k blocks of stock a couple hundred times a day really claim to have his interests in dirty, uneducated criminals who have no connection to him? I don't think so. I really don't think people like traders make good representatives or protectorates of criminals. Sorry. I think their good will towards criminals is fake. After all, rich people or well-off people start wanting to sue the police if they just get pulled over by the cops just once. I think a criminal would be pissed off if he saw some geeky guy in khakis and a little Polo shirt picketing outside his jailhouse.

Instead of killing a person, let's leave him in jail for the rest of his life so at least he won't die by the state's hand. That way he can live a meaningful existence and maybe be found innocent or be rehabilitated. Do you REALLY buy this line of reasoning from the anti-capital punishment folks? I don't.

What it comes down to is that wrongful execution plays off the notion that the justice system finds innocent people guilty. Well, let's go one step further and get rid of murder charges altogether. After all, we wouldn't want to charge the innocents with something they didn't do. An innocent person saved is worth ten guilty people, right?

There will ALWAYS be wrongful convictions, no matter what steps we do to get rid of them, but for god's sake, let's try to fix the system itself. The system has to be there to protect the general public. (I personally think imprisonment/conviction is more an act of protection from future crime than of state's revenge against the defendant) And if you're going to argue against capital punishment, DROP THE WRONGFUL EXECUTION ROUTE. It all comes down to the fact that some people think killing others, no matter for what reason, is BAD. There is nothing wrong, in my mind, with someone feeling that capital punishment is fundamentally wrong. If you don't support capital punishment, fine. If you do, that's fine too. I understand both sides, but think that capital punishment is a measure to be taken only with the utmost caution.

Let's all be HONEST about our feelings on this. Don't give me all this bullshit about how you hate true criminals as much as anyone else, but you just don't want innocent people being put to death. That course of argument leads to so many maybe's and ambiguities such that everything becomes convoluted and you really have no ground to walk on.

It's simple. You either think that criminals who are obviously guilty (I don't think anyone feels that borderline cases should result in capital punishment) should be put to death, or you feel that no one should be put to death because of religion, ideology, or whatever. This will never ever be settled completely because the point of contention isn't something that can be argued completely to one side. Same with abortion, or gun control, or all that other crap we have to hear on a daily basis.

All these fucking people who seemingly don't have jobs to go to standing outside yelling at each other over a matter that will never be settled. And they all wonder why the other side never sees their point of view. As if they're 100% right and the other side is 100% wrong. Brilliant.

Spare me the rest of the trash arguments (I'm speaking to both sides here) and go campaign for judicial reform, something that WOULD make a difference towards saving innocent people. Or at least let us discuss this with open minds, and come to some sort of compromise. I'm sick and tired of people trying to fit such a colorful world into a two-toned black and white.


 
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