Abolish The Death Penalty In MO!

http://m.stlamerican.com/mobile/news/editorials/article_f30a247e-583d-11e1-8c9b-0019bb2963f4.html

Abolish the death penalty in Missouri

Posted: Thursday, February 16, 2012 12:05 am

We strive to work within what is possible, here and now, in taking policy stands and calling for change. Moving into a major election year when we will elect a president, a governor, a U.S. senator and many other key positions, it’s not a promising time, in a conservative state like Missouri, to realistically call for a major progressive policy change like abolishing the death penalty. But conscience compels us to renew our call for Missouri to outlaw this barbaric, racist, ineffective and expensive practice.

We are not alone. The level-headed League of Women Voters is calling for the elimination of the death penalty. State Rep. Penny V. Hubbard, D-St. Louis, has filed a bill (HB1496) that would outlaw the death penalty in Missouri and halt all pending executions. Nationally, the NAACP has acted on the widespread outrage over the execution of Troy Davis to rally support for death penalty states to abolish capital punishment. The Pew Research Center reports that public support for the death penalty is at 62 percent, far down from highs in the 80 percentile range.

Both the League of Women Voters and Rep. Hubbard point out the large number of inmates who have been wrongly accused and sentenced to death on the testimony of witnesses, only to later be exonerated by analysis of DNA evidence. To think that the state can commit cold-blooded murder by executing a wrongly convicted person alone should move us to restrict the state from meting out the ultimate punishment based on our faulty system of justice.

The NAACP, as it should, emphasizes race-based disparities in issuing the death penalty. While African Americans make up less than 13 percent of the total U.S. population, they comprise 42 percent of those awaiting execution, and 35 percent of defendants executed in the U.S. since 1976. There can be no justice in any demographic being executed at three times the proportion of its representation in the population.

“The death penalty is a direct descendent of lynching,” says Christina Swarns of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. She points out that the states with the highest number of lynching also have the highest number of executions. Missouri recorded 69 lynchings between 1882 and 1968, according to the Archives at Tuskegee Institute, placing it 13th highest in lynchings among the states. It ranks 18th highest among the states in executions from 1609-2011, with 353 executions in that time, according to statistics compiled by The Guardian.

In addition to being unjust and racist, the death penalty is ineffective. The FBI Uniform Crime Report from 2008 showed that Southern states had the highest murder rate, but also accounted for over 80 percent of executions. Conversely, the Northeast, which has less than 1 percent of all executions, had the lowest murder rate. Execution may answer blood lust for revenge, but the threat of the death penalty does not prevent murder.

In addition to being unjust, racist and ineffective, the death penalty is expensive at a time when states across the country are slashing budgets for essential services. Pursuing capital punishment can cost more than $1 million more than the cost of a non-death penalty trial. In 2008, the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice found that the state spent an estimated $137 million per year on the death penalty

We also believe an appeal to common ethical sense is in order. If ending someone else’s life is so abhorrent, then why should the state be in the business of ending people’s lives? If we are so outraged at homicide, why should we give ourselves the right, in effect, to commit homicide in the name of justice? We know where we are, and in what kind of political season. But we join Rep. Hubbard, the League of Women Voters and the NAACP in calling for the Missouri Legislature and Gov. Jay Nixon to act in the name of justice, efficiency, fiscal prudence and morality and abolish the death penalty in Missouri.

strive to work within what is possible, here and now, in taking policy stands and calling for change. Moving into a major election year when we will elect a president, a governor, a U.S. senator and many other key positions, it’s not a promising time, in a conservative state like Missouri, to realistically call for a major progressive policy change like abolishing the death penalty. But conscience compels us to renew our call for Missouri to outlaw this barbaric, racist, ineffective and expensive practice.

We are not alone. The level-headed League of Women Voters is calling for the elimination of the death penalty. State Rep. Penny V. Hubbard, D-St. Louis, has filed a bill (HB1496) that would outlaw the death penalty in Missouri and halt all pending executions. Nationally, the NAACP has acted on the widespread outrage over the execution of Troy Davis to rally support for death penalty states to abolish capital punishment. The Pew Research Center reports that public support for the death penalty is at 62 percent, far down from highs in the 80 percentile range.

Both the League of Women Voters and Rep. Hubbard point out the large number of inmates who have been wrongly accused and sentenced to death on the testimony of witnesses, only to later be exonerated by analysis of DNA evidence. To think that the state can commit cold-blooded murder by executing a wrongly convicted person alone should move us to restrict the state from meting out the ultimate punishment based on our faulty system of justice.

The NAACP, as it should, emphasizes race-based disparities in issuing the death penalty. While African Americans make up less than 13 percent of the total U.S. population, they comprise 42 percent of those awaiting execution, and 35 percent of defendants executed in the U.S. since 1976. There can be no justice in any demographic being executed at three times the proportion of its representation in the population.

“The death penalty is a direct descendent of lynching,” says Christina Swarns of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. She points out that the states with the highest number of lynching also have the highest number of executions. Missouri recorded 69 lynchings between 1882 and 1968, according to the Archives at Tuskegee Institute, placing it 13th highest in lynchings among the states. It ranks 18th highest among the states in executions from 1609-2011, with 353 executions in that time, according to statistics compiled by The Guardian.

In addition to being unjust and racist, the death penalty is ineffective. The FBI Uniform Crime Report from 2008 showed that Southern states had the highest murder rate, but also accounted for over 80 percent of executions. Conversely, the Northeast, which has less than 1 percent of all executions, had the lowest murder rate. Execution may answer blood lust for revenge, but the threat of the death penalty does not prevent murder.

In addition to being unjust, racist and ineffective, the death penalty is expensive at a time when states across the country are slashing budgets for essential services. Pursuing capital punishment can cost more than $1 million more than the cost of a non-death penalty trial. In 2008, the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice found that the state spent an estimated $137 million per year on the death penalty

We also believe an appeal to common ethical sense is in order. If ending someone else’s life is so abhorrent, then why should the state be in the business of ending people’s lives? If we are so outraged at homicide, why should we give ourselves the right, in effect, to commit homicide in the name of justice? We know where we are, and in what kind of political season. But we join Rep. Hubbard, the League of Women Voters and the NAACP in calling for the Missouri Legislature and Gov. Jay Nixon to act in the name of justice, efficiency, fiscal prudence and morality and abolish the death penalty in Missouri.

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