~originally posted 9.29.11~
I have a Bird Feeder on my back porch.It was set up lovingly for both the birds and my cats. A couple of weeks ago, things got rough at the Feeder, and a little one got pushed off the food dish and fell to the ground and died. My little neighbor who is five came to me crying, " Can't you fix him, put Life Back in him ? You are a nurse, a grown up, are you going to just let him die ?". Together we buried The Little Dead Bird we tried to give him some dignity as we wrapped him in Basil and Morning Glories, and put him in a spot where the Cats would not get to him. And I tried to explain to her that Life was so fragile sometimes, and that even Big People can not always "Fix Life or Save All Living things" . "But you try right ?" She Said with such urgency....
It was the same day that Troy Davis was executed, and her pleading voice and her Big Eyes haunted me.....
Ever since watching that GOP Debate where Perry's Record Execution Number was met with thunderous applause I have been haunted by the issue of what the Death Penalty really means to us as a People, as a Country. It was not just one person who clapped, and the clapping was not polite golf clapping, it was actual enthusiasm. And Perry smiled shyly, smugly in the warmth of the applause, not a drop of shame, not even a single moment of moral intrepidation. It was like expected applause or praise for this "Record". And I can not comprehend that he feels "pride" in his Execution Number, that he is proud to have ended other's lives. In yet another debate he proudly said that he is Pro Life, I am confused how he can honestly make that statement when he has knowingly ended more than 200 lives.
This month I tried to have discussions with people I know about the Death Penalty and the "Applause " Moment. And I was struck that others were not as concerned as I was. "Well, It is part of our Justice System." "Maybe they were only applauding Perry, not the actual number". "It is more cost Effective to execute than to have people sitting on Death Row". "Isn't it better for the Victim's Families to have the situation resolved". "Maybe the number is high because Texas is large and has more crime." "Well, it is Part of Our Justice System" " You are Buddhist and a Nurse, that is why you have a hard time accepting the Death Penalty".
I was stunned at the number of rational justifications and even placid acceptance offered to me. And some of these people are very religious and morally sound and some were and are even liberal and progressive. So I am left wondering, do I not understand my fellow Americans ? Or is our Moral Courage damaged ? Do we lack a Moral Compass on this Issue ? Are we as a Country damaged when some Americans justify Killing Other Americans by stating it is Legally and Religiously Sound ? Are we really a "Civilized" Industrial Modern Nation that values Ancient Law of "Eye for an Eye" ? 139 Countries (some more developed than others) have abolished the Death Penalty since 1976, why is America not one of those Countries ?
Wisdom from Others.....
"Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders."
-Albert Camus, French philosopher
"As if one crime of such nature, done by a single man, acting individually, can be expiated by a similar crime done by all men, acting collectively."
-Lewis Lawes, warden of Sing Sing prison in NY in the 1920s and 30s
"Imposition of the death penalty is arbitrary and capricious. Decision of who will live and who will die for his crime turns less on the nature of the offense and the incorrigibility of the offender and more on inappropriate and indefensible considerations: the political and personal inclinations of prosecutors; the defendant's wealth, race and intellect; the race and economic status of the victim; the quality of the defendant's counsel; and the resources allocated to defense lawyers."
-Gerald Heaney, former appellate judge
"To take a life when a life has been lost is revenge, not justice."
"The most glaring weakness is that no matter how efficient and fair the DP may seem in theory, in actual practice it is primarily inflicted upon the weak, the poor, the ignorant and minorities."
-Pat Brown, former CA governor
"I have yet to see a death case among the dozen coming to the Supreme Court on eve-of-execution stay applications in which the defendant was well represented at trial... People who are well represented at trial do not get the death penalty."
-Ruth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court Justice
"In the US the overwhelming majority of those executed are psychotic, alcoholic, drug addicted or mentally unstable. They frequently are raised in an impoverished and abusive environment. Seldom are people with money or prestige convicted of capital offenses, even more seldom are they executed."
-George Ryan, former Illinois Governor
"The reality is that capital punishment in America is a lottery. It is a punishment that is shaped by the constraints of poverty, race, geography and local politics."
-Bryan Stevenson, Death Row lawyer
"It can be argued that rapists deserve to be raped, that mutilators deserve to be mutilated. Most societies, however, refrain from responding in this way because the punishment is not only degrading to those on whom it is imposed, but it is also degrading to the society that engages in the same behavior as the criminals."
-Stephen Bright, human rights attorney
"I think this country would be much better off if we did not have capital punishment.... We cannot ignore the fact that in recent years a disturbing number of inmates on death row have been exonerated."
-John Paul Stevens, U.S. Supreme Court Justice
"I'm of the opinion that we should eliminate capital punishment. Having been involved with justice agencies around the world, it's been somewhat embarrassing, quite frankly, that nations just as so-called civilized as ours think we're barbaric because we still have capital punishment."
-Reginald Wilkinson, was a prison director in Ohio
"Death is not only an unusually severe punishment, unusual in its pain, in its finality and in its enormity, but it serves no penal purpose more effectively than a less severe punishment; therefore the principle inherent in the clause that prohibits pointless infliction of excessive punishment when less severe punishment can adequately achieve the same purposes invalidates the punishment."~ William J.Brennan , judicial opinion, Jul. 2, 1976
"When a juvenile commits a heinous crime, the State can exact forfeiture of some of the most basic liberties, but the State cannot extinguish his life and his potential to attain a mature understanding of his own humanity."~ Anthony Kennedy ,judicial opinion on Roper v. Simmons, Mar. 1, 2005
"Since I was a law student, I have been against the death penalty. It does not deter. It is severely discriminatory against minorities, especially since they’re given no competent legal counsel defense in many cases. It’s a system that has to be perfect. You cannot execute one innocent person. No system is perfect. And to top it off, for those of you who are interested in the economics it, it costs more to pursue a capital case toward execution than it does to have full life imprisonment without parole."
~Ralph Nader , Meet the Press interview, Jun. 25, 2000
"It's just really tragic after all the horrors of the last 1,000 years we can't leave behind something as primitive as government sponsored execution." ~Russ Feingold
Facts To Share....
(1) Amnesty International has carefully researched the Cost Issue, and shown that actually the Death Penalty is not Cost Effective, far from it.
(2)And for those that say America does not execute that many, 58-92 People are still executed per year. 3300 Are at any one time on Death Row, either serving life sentences or awaiting sentencing.
(3) National Coalition to End the Death Penalty also has more on this situation, explaining that it does not cut costs, or deter crime, or "save lives". ( President George Bush used to say that at Debates...and no one every challenged him for the Stats.)
(4) Death Penalty Information Organization ( also called Death Penalty Focus) has more information and is a site that has valuable insights.