Can You Sit Back While Innocents Are Killed?

Can You Sit Back While Innocents Are Killed?

Article first published on Technorati as Can  you sit back while innocents are killed?

After seeing this video on Yahoo today, I had to respond.  This man’s optimism and ability to forgive is inspiring.

Barney Brown was wrongfully convicted of rape and robbery when he was 14 years old.  He spent 38 years in prison for this crime after a jury voted 7-5 in favor of life in prison versus the death penalty.

Did he have to spend the majority of his life in prison?  Did he have to narrowly escape a death sentence?  No.

The prosecutor offered him 3 years in juvenile detention; however, Barney Brown was honorable and could not bring himself to admit to a crime he didn’t commit.   His reward?  38 years in prison.

Barney Brown’s story is tragic and involves countless injustices including:

  • he was exonerated by juvenile court,
  • double jeopardy was violated when he was tried again,
  • the police beat him up to the point he lost sight in one eye, and
  • the victim could never identify him as the attacker.

However, this is not just tragic because of the horrific events Barney Brown bore, but because the justice system failed.  It failed to mete out justice and it failed to reward honor and integrity.  How many people have been bullied into pleading guilty for fear of winding up like Barney Brown?  How many people are threatened into betraying their honor and integrity for fear of being punished for it?

On its own, that is bad enough.

But, how much worse would this be if Barney Brown had been executed before he was proven innocent?

Richard C. Dieter, Esq. Executive Director, Death Penalty Information Center wrote:

The current emphasis on faster executions, less resources for the defense, and an expansion in the number of death cases mean that the execution of innocent people is inevitable. The increasing number of innocent defendants being found on death row is a clear sign that our process for sentencing people to death is fraught with fundamental errors–errors which cannot be remedied once an execution occurs.

I have to apologize to you at this point.  I wrote in my About page, that

I will not say here’s my opinion and IT is RIGHT!  Never.

Well, never came more quickly than I expected.  On this issue, I do think it is a black and white, right or wrong decision.

The death penalty is wrong and should be stopped

The risk of killing an innocent person far outweighs any need for vengeance a victim or their family may feel entitled to – because that is the only benefit of killing people via the death penalty.  Vengeance.

It doesn’t stop crime

The death penalty doesn’t reduce the amount of heinous crime committed.   Minnesota doesn’t have the death penalty and only has 1.4 murders out of each 100,000 people.  While Texas, who does support the death penalty, has a 385% higher murder rate (5.4 per 100K).   Furthermore, 88% of experts agree that the death penalty does not reduce capital crime.

It isn’t cost effective

It costs the taxpayers significantly more to kill someone than to imprison them for life.   Significant in the range of $24 Million dollars more per inmate. How about we give that money to the victims instead.   Wouldn’t that be a better use of resources?

Our children

My generation grew up being spanked.  Yet, in my lifetime, the consensus has shifted because of the argument that spanking does not teach children anything other than it is OK to hit.  What are we teaching them when we kill?  How is court ordered murder any less of a crime than the murder committed by the prisoner?  How do you rectify those values when teaching your children?

Call to Action

I am not highly influential.  I don’t command the attention of thousands, or have the Governor’s ear.  But we, collectively, are influential.  We can change this and stop the killing.  We can save innocent people from death.  How?

And if you disagree, please comment.  Convince me that killing innocent people should continue.

9 Responses to Can You Sit Back While Innocents Are Killed?

  1. Whew-talk about a loaded subject for a Monday morning…

    I usually hold very solid moral views, and do not deviate. I imagine the majority of death penalty cases are accurate regarding the perpetrators of the crimes, but you read an awful, unjust, and abominable story like this, and it’s easier to change moral course….

    Worth noting is the color of a person’s skin–and men of color are obviously disproportionately affected.

    • The statistics are staggering and clearly show predjudice against people of color. VERY clearly. I would go so far as to say it is most likely that the wrongly convicted innocents are black in the majority of the cases although I have no facts to support that statement.

  2. Hey Daria!
    You make a convincing argument – not that I needed convincing!
    I am so moved when I see people who have had injustices committed against them come out with love and forgiveness. South Africa comes to mind – Nelson Mandela and the work of Desmund Tutu. Raises the bar for all of us. Thanks for the post and for raising the bar.

    • His reaction is astounding to me. More than 1/2 my life behind bars for a crime I didn’t commit? I would be angry and bitter. I don’t think I would be able to find the good and turn the other cheek like this man did. He is an amazing inspiration.

  3. Cynthia left this great comment when this first posted on Technorati and I wanted to make sure you all got to read it too…

    The United States is now the only Western industrialized country still practicing the death penalty. I believe that the declining in use of the death penalty in other countries is the belief that the death penalty is no longer a deterrent to murder and it alleviates the problem of executing the innocent. There are many problems associated with the administration of the death penalty. One, the statute is different in each state, and two, there are inherent problems with putting innocent people to death, three, racial disparity, four, the problem of the death penalty being “cruel and unusual” punishment, five the problem of lack of lateralization of the philosophy of discretion and finally, the lack of qualified capital punishment lawyers that lead to inadequate defenses. Until these problems can be addressed, the death penalty as it is now should be abolished. Our adversarial system of justice was created to make those that are guilty pay for their crimes and make sure victims get the justice they are due. What justice is it to execute an innocent person or unfairly sentence someone to die without a fair trial? I do however believe that the answer to a great many problems with our capital punishment is the lateralization of the philosophy of discretion. Discretion is a large factor in our criminal justice system. Each prosecutor has the discretion to decide if a case needs to go to trial or can be pled out. Each judge has the discretion to follow sentencing guidelines and to decide length and extent of punishment. There needs to be a lateralization among all systems, national and state to give each and every criminal equal treatment and equal punishment under the law. That brings another point. The mandatory sentencing laws should be equal for all levels of society, minority or not. So, the main two solutions to lateralize discretion would be to make all mandatory sentencing laws equal over all states and to make all discretion guidelines equal among all players in the sentencing realm. To do this, national guidelines would need to be established regarding sentencing and discretion. Measurements need to be in place to assure that all nationalities are getting equal punishment/treatment under the law. The government should not have the right to kill someone, is of course a personal belief. Our society depends on the criminal justice system to keep us safe, and to protect us. Due to the inherent problems with our current death penalty, it should be abolished until a solution to these problems can be found.

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