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A Hope for Change – Capital Punishment

September 22, 2011

As long as I can remember, I’ve considered the death penalty to be wrong. I do not believe one human being has the right to decide when another should die. Although there are a lot of terrible people out there, and it seems many cannot be rehabilitated or change, I do not believe that anyone has the ability to determine with absolute certainty which criminals will never change or the right to decide which ones should die. In addition to the moral issues related to the death penalty, it is not applied fairly or consistently in the United States, and has been used in instances where there is significant evidence that he executed may have been innocent.

In recent weeks, there have been a number of headline news stories surrounding death penalty cases. These stories have highlighted cases like that of Troy Davis (convicted of killing a police officer in Georgia) where there is a question of his guilt, as well as cases like that of Lawrence Brewer (convicted of the racially-motivated killing of a a back man in Texas) where there is little doubt of his guilt. Additionally there are stories about the sheer number and pace of executions in certain states (Texas has executed 11 inmates this year, in the US 35 have already been executed).

I’m hopeful that the increased attention on the death penalty will encourage change and that the death penalty will be used more rarely if at all.  As more people become aware of the issues with the death penalty, the most problematic being the likelihood that innocent people have been executed, hopefully our political leaders will see the need for change as well. In particular, Rick Perry’s candidacy will continue to fuel the fire of this debate as he has seen 235 men executed during service as governor of Texas.  Although the death penalty is far from the only issue with the US Justice System, I consider it to be one of the largest and easiest to fix.

Below are a few articles I have read and recommend regarding death penalty cases in the US.

Trial by Fire by David Grann – looks at the case of Todd Willingham who was executed in for the death of his two children who died in a house fire.

Davis is Executed in Georgia by Kim Severson – includes some of the details of the appeals and case against Troy Davis who was executed last night.

Troy Davis, Texas and the Ultimate Justice by J.D. Bell – a brief look at the Troy Davis case and its ties to how the death penalty is handled in Texas.

I am Lawrence Brewer by Sarah Howell – a look at how reactions varied to the executions of Troy Davis and Lawrence Brewer (thanks to Brian Johnson for pointing me to this link)

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