Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dallas Morning News calls for ABOLITION

After 100 years supporting the death penalty, today the conservative Dallas morning News called for an end to Texas' death penalty system. According to their editorial, Death no more: It's time to end capital punishment:
And that uncomfortable truth [the execution of innocent] has led this editorial board to re-examine its century-old stance on the death penalty. This board has lost confidence that the state of Texas can guarantee that every inmate it executes is truly guilty of murder. We do not believe that any legal system devised by inherently flawed human beings can determine with moral certainty the guilt of every defendant convicted of murder. That is why we believe the state of Texas should abandon the death penalty – because we cannot reconcile the fact that it is both imperfect and irreversible.

The state holds in its hands the power of life and death. It is an awesome power, one that citizens of a democracy must approach in fear and trembling, and in full knowledge that the state's justice system, like everything humanity touches, is fated to fall short of perfection. If we are doomed to err in matters of life and death, it is far better to err on the side of mercycaution. It is far better to err on the side of life. The state cannot impose death – an irrevocable sentence – with absolute certainty in all cases. Therefore the state should not impose it at all. • A New Standard: Now that Texas juries have a choice, and life without parole is the superior option. Coming tomorrow.

In a second editorial titled "
A death penalty slowdown, but not in Texas," DMN compares the Texas' number of executions with the national rate, which "leads away from widespread use of the death penalty."

While many states have begun serious soul-searching about killing criminals, no significant effort has begun in Texas.

The response has been markedly different in state capitals nationally, as DNA exonerations chalked up by justice projects approach the 200 mark. Two states – New Jersey and Illinois – have imposed moratoriums. New York's capital punishment law has been declared unconstitutional by the state's highest court. Maryland's governor and his predecessor have urged repeal. Several state legislatures – including those in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico and North Carolina – have created death penalty study commissions or advanced abolition measures.

In Texas, state lawmakers are moving in the opposite direction, proposing a law of dubious constitutionality that would open up death row to people convicted of sex crimes with children – a major departure from the modern standard of reserving execution only for killers.

You can read a pro-death penalty viewpoint by Mike Hashimoto a dissenting member of their board titled, "
Opposing a death penalty repeal."

Graphic: Key death penalty statistics (.pdf)
Chart: A dubious distinction (.pdf)

Chat: Editorial page editor Keven Ann Willey answers your questions at 2 p.m. Monday on | Send early questions

Coming Monday: Texas' Next Step: Lawmakers should enact a moratorium and study flaws in full light.

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