Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The New York Review of Books: Death in Texas

The New York Review of Books: Death in Texas

While I do not intend to turn this blog into a "Sentencing" blog. I would be remiss not to point out St Helene Prejean's recent article in the NY Review of Books. Sister has done more to turn the arguments for the death penalty on their ear than any other commentator since my former college Professor Hugo Adam Bedeu (of Tufts University.) I was very pro Death Penalty when I was a student of Bedeu's and remained so throughout the early part of my career. It was not until I had the opportunity to read Sister Helen's book "Dead Man Walking" that I relalized what a waste of effort and life the Death penalty is.

If I were a trial judge, I could sentence someone to death under the law. It would be difficult, but I do believe that the laws of the state must be upheld unless unconstitutional. As a public Policy maker or as a citizen, I have a real problem with the culture of death that the penalty infuses into our citizenry. I do not support the death penalty if there are any other means to make society safe. I find it to be usurption of the Power Of God, and beyond our ken to administer fairly.

While as a trial judge I would do my utmost to ensure a fair, just, and accurate verdict, I do not believe that such would be the result on a regular basis. Moreover I am extremely disturbed by the fact that the death penalty gives Society the feeling that it has the power over life and death and not God. In this day and age we have the ability to protect ourselves well enough from individuals who wish to play God by taking the life of another without our having to stoop to their level. Being able to vote for a death sentence as a juror and being able to impose one as a judge, does not mean one should support it as a public policy.

The death penalty wastes valuable resources of our courts, the attorneys who work on the cases and of people who time later shows may have been, or were actually innocent. It also hardens our hearts to death and it helps us to devalue life of at least some individuals. I can here the rabble of those who say that such theory devalues the life of innocent victims but that is not society's doing. Nor is it the criminal justice system's main care. Rather we must in the criminal justice system be most interested in what potentially helps (or in some cases least hurts) society as a whole. Wasting life hurts society as a whole. Having two dead bodies instead of one wastes potential and opportunity. De-valuing life, even guilty despicable lives, makes it easier to devalue the lives of those less fortunate or who seem too different from us or who of those that do not fit in with our sterotype of what or who we are. It permits our thinking to be that there are those who due to behavior or circumstance do not deserve better than they are getting.

I am not sure but I think it was President John F. Kennedy who said in his innauguration speech that a society is not judged on how it treats those in it who have the most, but rather it is judged by how it treats those within it who have the least. I would posit that among those with the least are those who are without liberty and whose very exsistance is in the hands of those that hate them the most. How we deal with them will truly be a test of our society and our values.

Anyway that's what I think. Why not tell me what you think by leaving me a comment here or one at our website at www.colleluorilaw.com.
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