I have to admit that if anyone had asked me even if you years ago whether I thought I'd ever see the day when a major political party in the United States would openly advocate for the abolishment of the death penalty, I would have laughed and asked: "Are you nuts?".
Let's face it...America loves the death penalty. By conveniently subjective interpretation of circumstances, it morally justifies that basic primitive need for vengeance. In fact, most who demand nothing less than death will only too eagerly quote the Bible "An eye for an eye" arguing that therefore this measure of justice is sanctioned by none other than God himself. So what if the inconvenient truth is that this same chapter of the Bible also dictates that those who disrespect their parents "shall be put to death" (Exodus 20:17) and those who commit adultery must be put to death, and other crimes too. But our society wouldn't advocate that, so this part is ignored.
Then there's what the Bible says in Deuteronomy 19:15-20, clearly stating that if an innocent man is condemned to death by false testimony, those responsible for this injustice must be put to death so that others will know that condemning an innocent person will not be tolerated. In recent years hundreds of innocent people have been conclusively exonorated through DNA evidence, yet neither the witnesses that gave false testimony or the prosecutors who only too often do know the person was innocent and prosecuted him or her anyway have never - not even once - been held accountable.
When it comes to capital punishment, truth and justice mean nothing as often deciding whether the state will deliberately take the life of a person under the pretense of administering justice has very little to do with the crime the defendant has been accused of. Rather, it is about the politics of death and a particular prosecutor's own political ambitions. Nobody can credibly argue that only the "worst of the worst" get the death penalty. Rather, the overwhelming weight of the objective evidence shows that the primary elements applicable in deciding who will live and who will die is socio-economic...only the poorest of the poor will face the death penalty - and even then, they will only face actual execution if the victim was white as our legal process eagerly facilities racial discrimination - black lives do not matter when the victim was black, and they know this.
After over a generation of fanatical support for the death penalty and repeatedly seeing all honorable and morally ethical politicians all but publically burned at the stake when they voiced their opposition to the death penalty, I was flabbergasted recently to learn that the Democratic Party (Hillary Clinton) has now publically declared its intent to campaign for the abolishment of the death penalty.
But they're still many in the Democratic party who are not happy - some will even abandon the party in protest. Still, I just never thought I'd see the day when any political candidate, much less a major political party, would call to have the death penalty abolished.
How did this come about? Perhaps the Democratic party is merely exploring society's own views towards the death penalty as it becomes increasingly unpopular among voters who have seen a legal system corrupted by deliberate imperfection and a growing consensus that our legal system is only too willing to execute innocent people.
Myself, I certainly do not credit Hillary Clinton with the adoption of this resolution to abolish the death penalty. Although I do respect Hillary for many things, I cannot ignore the fact that Bill Clinton single-handedly is responsible for more innocent men and women facing execution than any other person.
I'm glad you asked how I could say, that will explain. It was in 1996 that then President Bill Clinton signed into effect what is known as the "Anti-Terrorist and Effective Death Penalty Act" (AEDPA) which was primarily intended to expedite executions by eliminating any meaningful Federal court review of State imposed convictions and death sentences. By signing the AEDPA into law, Bill Clinton made it only too easy for the states to carry out executions - in fact, under the 1996 AEDPA it even made it impossible to prove your innocence with new evidence. Although technically the AEDPA did allow for "successive" federal court review if new evidence of innocence could be presented, in the past 20 years since Bill Clinton signed the law into effect, not a single death sentenced prisoner has been allowed to prove their innocence under this law.
To be honest, having Hillary Clinton as president scares the crap out of me - but not quite as much as Trump. Those of us who have been around awhile know that when Bill Clinton was questioned about his position on the death penalty while running for president in 1992, his response was to rush back to Arkansas, where he was still the state Governor, and ordered the execution of a mentally incompetent prisoner - to prove he was more than willing to kill.
What if Hillary Clinton proves to be cut of the same cloth? Although the Democratic party has now formally adopted a resolution to campaign against the death penalty, this resolution would have no binding effect on Hillary Clinton's exercise of executive power once she's in office. When the time comes to nominate federal judges to the bench, will she choose judges who oppose or support the death penalty? When the time comes to preside over the execution of a federal prisoner, will she give the go-ahead while shrugging her shoulders and claiming that she's just doing her job?
But they say that "Hope Springs Eternal" - and what I would like to think is that at the end of the day it's not 1996 anymore. And we are not the same society we were then. When Bill Clinton was President America's support for the death penalty was at an all-time high, and for better or worse, Bill Clinton was a quintessential politician and if he had to send a thousand innocent people to their death to win office he would. And in 1996 nobody really cared.