Saturday, 19 April 2008

Rulings on death penalty

Reasons to abolish

I am disheartened that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to tackle the method used in executions. (Please see "COUNTY GEARS UP FOR EXECUTIONS / High court: Backs Kentucky's lethal injection," Page One, Thursday.) This three-drug protocol was developed by an Oklahoma pharmacist in the 1970s, and it stands even when the veterinarian association abandoned it for a more humane method using only an overdose of anesthetic. Doctors said there were indications of low blood levels of anesthetic and that some were most likely partly conscious through it.

The rest of the Western world, and in fact much of the world, has abandoned the death penalty. But in Texas in 2007 we carried out our 400th execution, a number four times higher than the next closest state, Virginia, at 98, even though there are 17 states with higher murder rates. Its cost to Texas taxpayers per capital case is enormous at $2.3 mill-ion. Multiply that by 400, and it's a huge expense for tax-payers when there is the alter-native of life without parole.

The death penalty is about public safety and justice, and it fails at justice with problems such as inadequate defense, prosecutorial misconduct and racial bias. It is unfairly meted out based on race, whether one is indigent and which state one is in.

Polls have shown that the majority of the public believes that there is no deterrent effect from the death penalty, and 95 percent believe that innocent people have been executed. The death of one innocent is too many. When one looks at cost and what populations the death penalty is used for and how justice is administered, one sees the reason for abolition.


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