Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Mexico makes the right call. The State should not have the authority to kill anybody.

Two stories in a row from New Mexico, where I used to live.

Today Governor Bill Richardson signed a bill ending the death penalty in that state. And here is a shocker-- the Governor's office over the past two days received over 8,000 contacts urging him to sign the bill and fewer than 3,000 telling him to keep the death penatly.

Other states that have no death penalty include Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The Supreme Court found that New York's death penalty statute was unconstitutional in 2004 and since then several attempts to put a new law on the books have been unsuccessful.

Providing security is a proper role of the state (and prisons help to do that) but I applaud this law because what we've seen is over 100 people who spent time on death row exonerated, often due to DNA testing or other technology that wasn't available at the time (or in some cases just by old fashioned gumshoe detective work; in Illinois Anthony Porter, who once came within two hours of execution was cleared after a class of Northwestern University Law Students tracked down the real murderer and proved that he, not Porter, was guilty.)

Given this number of flaws in the system, we have to ask ourselves very bluntly whether we want state governments that have already made scores of mistakes in capital murder cases to be in the business of killing people at all.

When the government has the authority to kill anybody, there is a chance that they will botch the job and not kill the right people.

And simple ineptitude is the benign scenario when this happens....

1 comment:

Jack Hampton said...

I'm not a fan of capital punishment and you're right that there have been a lot of screw-ups, but I think it's a stretch to compare a decision by a society to get rid of murderers by execution to the kind of widespread state-sponsored killing for all kinds of crimes that you see in dictatorships like Iran and China.