- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been criticized for less-than-stellar performances in debates among Republican presidential candidates this fall and even admitted, “Debates are not my strong suit.”
But the audience at the Sept. 7 debate cheered when he took credit for 234 executions in Texas during his tenure as governor.
That only proves a point we have made before: Capital punishment dehumanizes and brings out barbaric instincts in us.
We wrote an editorial opposing the death penalty 14 years ago. We mentioned that it is applied unevenly, there is no evidence that it is a deterrent to murders, there is a chance of executing an innocent man, killing the killer won’t bring the people he murdered back to life, and it reduces us — the public, in whose name the execution is carried out — to the same level of the murderer.
Lee Hamilton, then Indiana’s 9th District congressman, wrote to our editorial writer, “I appreciated your recent editorial on capital punishment. I share your opposition to the death penalty, and I found your editorial insightful and persuasive. I suspect you and I are very much in the minority on this question, so I especially appreciate your willingness to speak out.”
Hamilton was definitely in the minority among politicians expressing opposition to the death penalty, but he had already announced his retirement from Congress and knew he wouldn’t have to face the electorate again.
The minority of the general public opposed to capital punishment is growing, though. A Gallup Poll this month found that 35 percent now oppose it — the highest opposition in 39 years. The same poll showed that the number of people who think the death penalty is applied fairly and the number who think it isn’t used often enough were at their lowest levels in a decade.
One likely reason for this recent enlightenment was the execution last month of Troy Davis in Georgia. Davis had been convicted of killing a police officer. No gun was ever found, though, and he was convicted only on the testimony of witnesses. But before his execution, 10 witnesses had signed affidavits saying police coerced them into implicating Davis and eight more signed affidavits implicating another man.
Many prisoners have been released after years, even decades, on death row when they were exonerated by DNA evidence. Those who favor the death penalty say that proves that the appeals process works and innocent people don’t actually get executed — though years of their life have been taken away.
But in Davis’ case the possibility is very strong that an innocent man was executed. And if it could happen to him, it could happen to any of us. Which is the strongest reason to end this barbaric practice.
Our view: Editorials reflect the opinions of the newspaper.
Your view: Tell us what you think. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail your comments to P.O. Box 309, Tell City, IN 47586.