Respectfully Submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw)-Guest Blogger
As an Illinois resident I was heartened by the fact that a former governor took the politically dangerous action to halt all executions and recently the current Governor of Illinois signed a bill to end the death penalty in Illinois. Tribune With that background, I was saddened to read that since 1976, more than 1/3rd of all executions that took place in our country happened in Texas. Since 1976, Texas has executed 481 people. Truth Progress Why does Texas continue to execute people when many experts assert that the death penalty is not a deterrent to violent crime? If the Death Penalty was a deterrent to violent crime why would Texas and many other states still have so many prisoners on death row?
I can remember the investigations done in Illinois to exonerate several death row prisoners that brought the issue to a head and had a significant impact on then Governor George Ryan. “The ban comes about 11 years after then-Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions after 13 condemned inmates were cleared since Illinois reinstated capital punishment in 1977. Ryan, a Republican, cited a Tribune investigative series that examined each of the state’s nearly 300 capital cases and exposed how bias, error and incompetence undermined many of them.” Tribune The State’s experiences since that moratorium led to the recent bill that ended the death penalty in Illinois.
Why would a large state like Illinois end the death penalty while Texas and many states in the South especially, continue to execute people? Are criminals worse in Texas than they are in Illinois or New York or South Carolina or Florida? Gov. Quinn in Illinois faced stiff opposition to his signing of the death penalty ban from the Cook County States Attorney and the Illinois Attorney General, both Democrats. The facts that stared Gov. Quinn in the face made it hard for him to listen to the death penalty advocates.
“The Tribune examination found at least 46 inmates sent to death row in cases where prosecutors used jailhouse informants to convict or condemn the defendants. The investigation also found at least 33 death row inmates had been represented at trial by an attorney who had been disbarred or suspended; at least 35 African-American inmates on death row who had been convicted or condemned by an all-white jury; and about half of the nearly 300 capital cases had been reversed for a new trial or sentencing hearing.” Tribune The death penalty discussion is not a partisan issue. Both Democrats and Republicans find themselves on both sides of the issue.
When you read that 13 death row inmates in Illinois were exonerated after the death penalty moratorium was initiated, how many innocent inmates in other states were later killed by state governments? How many innocent prisoners were convicted and sentenced to death with faulty or circumstantial evidence or under less than proper circumstances as noted in the Tribune investigation?
The death penalty has been a hot political football for years and will probably continue to be used by politicians on both sides of the aisle. No politician wants to look soft on crime. Isn’t it time for the politicians of this country to look beyond the “law and order” mentality and actually look at the facts? Is it time for a national ban on executions like most of the industrialized democracies in the world? How many of these politicians who are “gung-ho” to continue killing prisoners are also self avowed pro-lifers? Is there a contradiction in pushing for executions while arguing that abortions should not be allowed?
Is it too much to ask that fairness and the facts control these life and death decisions? What do you think?