Here we go again debating whether or not
the death penalty is a moral or even constitutional form of
punishment for capital crimes.
The U.S. Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments on
whether or not it is cruel and unusual to execute a retarded
hearing comes on the heels of the recent commutation of
Ernest McCarver, a mentally retarded man convicted of
murder and sentenced to die in North Carolina.
The fact that this subject can even draw an intelligent
debate defies all means of conventional wisdom.
If the government used a form of execution that caused
excessive amounts of physical pain or was torturous in any way,
then it could definitely be considered a cruel and unusual
punishment. On the
other hand, the simple fact that someone who takes a life must
pay for it with their own does not come within ten city blocks
of being cruel or unusual.
Now, before you anti-execution nut-jobs
get your hemp underwear in a knot, I should mention that no
mentally retarded person should be executed if they committed
murder by some sort of negligible accident like dropping a baby.
In the case of McCarver, he murdered a co-worker that he
was angry with and even planned out the act prior to carrying it
millions of retarded persons in this country who have a tough
time leading a normal life but it is safe to say that nearly all
of them know that hurting or killing someone else is wrong.
Granted, the severity of the retardation should be
considered, but McCarver was competent enough to hold a job and
even had driving privileges.
His lawyers are of course dropping his IQ score with
every press release, but hopefully the justices will realize
that anyone who can plan and carry out a murder is a threat to
society and should therefore be eliminated.
leave it to me to be the cynical , dollars and cents type, but
has anyone ever stopped to think about how much it costs the
average taxpayer to keep someone in prison for the rest of their
lives? If that
statistic was made public the anti-death penalty crowd would
lose half of their membership.
Prisons are overcrowded, and millions of dollars are
spent every year on appeals for murderers who are as guilty as
O.J. while all along every additional day we keep them alive and
in custody costs us more money.
It isn’t as though prosecutors pick names out of a hat for
who gets executed next. There
has to be a fair trial with a jury of the defendant’s peers
delivering a sentence of death -- not an easy thing to do.
the existence of the death penalty fails as a deterrent of
crime, it is only because criminals know that the appeals
process is so screwed up that they can live to be old men on
death row, and may very well end up getting their sentences
commuted to life in prison.
Now, of course many would ask why one would aspire to
live out the remainder of their days in a state penitentiary,
and that is a question which has no final answer.
Perhaps one explanation is the fact that prison
overcrowding leads to taxes being raised to build new jails, and
from what I hear, if you live in an old project, a new jail
isn’t that bad. Perhaps
I’m once again being too cynical in my assumptions, but it’s
not beyond the realm of possibility.
Or perhaps I’m just excited about the arrival of the
new season of The Sopranos, but when I look at the bottom line between keeping a
convicted murderer alive for fifty years versus a one-time high
electric bill, I have to say Whack’em
When the State Kills
by Austin Sarat
by Helen Prejean
Just Revenge: Costs and
Consequences of the Death Penalty
by Mark Costanzo
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