Gallup has new results showing that 34% of Americans believe an innocent person has been executed and still support the death penalty.
This under cuts the hopes of many that the Willingham case would be a turning point in the death penalty debate.
For my money, I find the death penalty unacceptable because I find it unacceptable that the state is able to silence dissent. I don’t thinks its particular cruel, unusual or barbaric. I certainly think that there are a lot of people who “deserve” to die, in the sense that I would like to see them dead. Most of these people haven’t committed a crime per se. I just don’t like them.
However, this is different than the state putting someone to death. The state ultimately has no accountability. If Joe finally drives me over the edge and I stick an ice pick in his eye then I have to suffer the consequences. If the state wrongly executes Joe then that’s just too bad. No one working for the state has to put their own life at risk for the privilege of taking another.
Moreover, as long as Joe is in prison he has the ability to argue that he was wrongly convicted. I think this is a fundamental right people have. When we entrust the state with such power over people’s lives then their must be the opportunity for some counterbalance. In the case of criminal conviction that counterbalance is the convicted’s right to advocate for him or herself.