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?
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?
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?
- Write a post.
- Tweet about it.
- Post this on Facebook.
- Contact your Governor. They can grant clemency.
- Call your Senator.
- Contact your Representative.
- Write a letter to the President.
- Donate to organizations like The Innocence Project.
- Talk about it with your families.
And if you disagree, please comment. Convince me that killing innocent people should continue.