Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Is the Death Penalty in Illinois finally dying?

Today, The Illinois Senate followed up on the House's vote to abolish the death penalty. That means the bill is now on the Governor's desk. Whether he will sign it or not remains to be seen.

I realize the death penalty is a difficult topic for people. We tend to be emotional about it, and react emotionally rather than intellectually. While I understand that, I would much rather we could all separate ourselves from how we feel and focus on the cold, hard facts.

FACT: In Illinois, we have put a ridiculous number of innocent people on death row. For a short rundown on many of them, check out Northwestern's Center for Wrongful Convictions

All the reading in the world though does not get to you like shaking the hand of one of these people.

That happened to me in 2008 or so. Until then, I was a true believer in the death penalty. After that experience, I felt like a changed person. Since then, I have been more than a little annoying on the matter, because I felt like I knew something the rest of the world did not know, and if I could just tell enough people what was happening, they would know too.

It has been so disheartening to learn that people do not want to know what I know. They do not want to know that innocent people have been executed. They do not want to know that it could happen to them, just like it almost happened to all the people listed on the NWern site. They do not want to know of the many systemic problems that lead to horrible outcomes like the execution of innocent people.

I guess it is scary. Or it should be. But ignoring all of these things is not helping. It is not making it better, it is not stopping it from happening, and it is certainly not punishing the right people. What so many forget is that when you have the wrong man convicted, you do not have the right one--he is still out there, doing God knows what.

No matter what your thoughts are on the topic, please do not ignore the facts. Educate yourself on why it happens, and what we can do to change things. Abolishing the death penalty in Illinois is a great start, I pray it happens. But it is just that--a start. When that is done, we can focus on all of the other wrongfully convicted people who are NOT on death row, but serving some other sentence.

If you need another reason for supporting the repeal, think of the money we will save. Illinois is broke, and this is a fast way to save a lot of money. Death row is expensive to maintain, it is expensive to pay for the appeals, etc. Eliminate the practice all together and save millions. In Illinois, a murder conviction requires that every day of the sentence be served--and natural life sentences are not uncommon. A person sentenced to natural life will never be released, short of a reversal of his conviction. It is a safe alternative. If errors are made here, at least we do not have to go to the cemetery to tell the defendant we messed up.


Liza said...

I hope it's dying. I totally get why you'd want to kill, with your own bare hands, somebody who hurt/killed a family member. But what good does it do to kill Bill Smith if Joe Jones is the one who did it? What kind of "closure" is that? As long as people are involved, there WILL be mistakes.

Amanda said...

Perfect example is the man accused of rape who served 30 years in Texas only to be found innocent because DNA evidence exonnerated him. Whew! I agree with Liza... as long as humans are involved, there will be errors.

Queen-Size funny bone said...

In Connecticut we have people who have been on death row for 19 years. whether you are for or against the process is a joke.

Venom said...

If I were in trouble Paige, I would really want you on my side.

I was 12 years old when I read the Stephen Truscott Story - it seriously impacted me, particularly because Truscott was only 12 years old or so himself when arrested.

David Milgard - another poignant illustration of your point.

Only two of, I think it's 14(?), Canadian stories of wrongful conviction.

On the flip side of the coin, I can tell you that it's very easy to become jaded (when you work within the system as my father did & my husband does) when 99 percent of cons claim total innocence.

They don't call them cons for nothing.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

I used to really believe in the death penalty...now that I have had a few first hand experiences with the corruption, politics and flat out BS in the judicial system...Not at all.

Holly said...

I don't know how I feel. I know people who have walked that sure as hell should not have. Which, of course, does not make it right to wrongfully imprison the others.

I don't know that emotions are the only thing at play when people talk about the death penalty either, I think lack of knowledge about prosecution and the appeal process also plays a part.

Since I play for the opposite team you do Paige, and because we seem to see the same dynamics over and over.....I don't know how I feel.

Anonymous said...

Death Penalty:

You stated people should consider and be:

Intellectually Educated and/or Emotionally Prepared

it is a hard choice or decision to make trying to be fair to all people involved.


Rising Rainbow said...

I remember a movie from when I was a little girl about a woman who was executed for a crime she did not commit. I may not remember the name of that movie but I still remember the tragedy of it.

With that being said, I'm with Queen size on the process though.

duffylou said...

I used to believe the judicial system was far and just. That honesty would prevail.

Then I went through a horrific divorce and custody battle. My minute civil case forever changed my opinion on every single thing in the United States justice system.

My opinion on the death penalty changed. I would never send someone to a certain death when I know there are so many excellent liars in the world.

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