It’s an election year in America and that means that it’s time to prove you’re willing to kill if you want to win an election – or help others in your political party win an election. It doesn’t matter what office you’re running for as the only way to win is to prove you’re willing to kill those that society says should be killed. Nothing gets the political juices flowing more then whipping the public up into a blood-thirsty frenzy them promising that if they will vote for you, you will kill the monster they’ve conveniently created.
As someone who has now spent over 25 years on Florida’s death row (please check www.doinglifeondeathrow.com) I know only too well just how political the death penalty is. Through the years I’ve seen only too many politicians run for public office by promoting to kill more condemned prisoners. And those politicians who express their moral reservations in taking a life to win an election quickly find themselves voted out of public office. That’s politics in America, where our concept of “democracy” has come to be defined by our willingness to kill.
But it is not just about the death penalty. For the first time that I can recall, those running for political office this year are not even mentioning the death penalty. At least, not as major campaign issue as it has been in the past. The issue did come up a few months back when a majority of the Supreme Court decided that putting someone to death for raping a child (but not committing murder) would violate the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
Only too quickly all there running for public office rushed to condemn the members of the Supreme Court for being “soft” on those who prey upon innocent children. But just as quickly this uprising of outrage and rabid cry for killing others died down and
not even a whimper could be hears since.
That got me to wondering ….could America be evolving and moving away from the long history if overwhelming support for the death penalty? Could it be possible that today’s generation is finally willing to recognize that capital punishment is an abomination to the morality of any civilized society?
The fact is that studies have shown a substantial decline in the public support for capital punishment. In recent years as more and more men and women have been exonerated and released from prison (including death row) after being found to have been wrongfully convicted and condemned to death, many have been compelled to question whether capital punishment might result in innocent people being executed.
Most recently state legislatures have begun to question the cost of capital punishment. In a recent study by a state sanctioned commission in California, it was concluded that California alone would save approximately 110 million dollars per year if they simply did away with the death penalty.
Another legislative commission in Illinois reached a similar conclusion. Comprehensive studies of many states death penalty systems by the American Bar Association have concluded that the systems, including Florida’s are “fundamentally flawed” and rendered unfair and arbitrary. Even in a recent Supreme Court ruling (Baze v. Rees, 2008) Justice Stevens recognized that the death penalty was about vengeance, not justice, and consistently discriminates against the underprivileged and too often victimizes the innocent.
So, there was reason to hope that maybe – just maybe- America was finally beginning to see the light and recognize that the death penalty has no place in our presumably evolved society.
Or so I had hoped. But this week I got a reality check when I learned that Florida’s Governor “Chain gang Charlie” Crist has appointed his first Justice to the Florida Supreme Court. Although Florida has a large number of highly qualified jurists, Charlie Crist decide to play politics and chose a Republican party insider, a “conservative” pro-death penalty jurist (Judge Conady) whose prior experience was “general counsel” for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and was part of the political campaign that spearheaded the “Death Penalty Reforms Act of 2000” which was intended to transform Florida into another Texas by significantly restricting death row appeals and eliminating any exceptions for claims of innocence.
The only reason these draconian laws did not pass was because the Florida Supreme Court declared that the politicians could not pass rules governing the court – only the Florida Supreme Court can. So, now it appears that Governor Crist has decided to simply stack the Florida Supreme Court with conservative, pro death penalty zealots so that once he has control of the court, these “streamlined” rules governing death penalty appeals can be implemented. Again, in the end, it all comes down to politics.