Thursday, March 16, 2017

Faith group urges end to death penalty

Posted By on Thu, Mar 16, 2017 at 10:55 AM

click to enlarge faith.jpg
The death penalty. Unused in Arkansas for more than a decade it's put us in the world news spotlight for Gov. Asa Hutchinson's decision to kill eight men in 10 days in April, a speeded-up process intended to kill the eight before a supply of a controversial drug used in the process, midazolam, expires.

I've fielded several calls from national reporters on this in recent days. I'm embarrassed to say that my initial reaction was surprise at the attention. What's the big deal? But I live in the Arkansas echo chamber. The death penalty enjoys majority support among voters (if somewhat less than in past years.) The legislature on this and other issues — guns, abortion, gay bigotry — is a caricature of public opinion — giant and unattractive. So, no, I tell reporters, I doubt Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge or any legislator does political harm with a thirst for executions.

But there are people who've soldiered on for years against killing.

Today, I heard from Faith Voices Arkansas urging death penalty opponents to call House Judiciary Committee members to support HB 2103 by Rep. Vivian Flowers to abolish the death penalty. It could come up next week. Flowers also has introduced HB 2170 to bar the death penalty for a defendant with a serious mental illness.

Neither stands a chance of passage. But, principle demands that the fight continue. Faith Arkansas offers these reasons to end the death penalty:

1. The death penalty does not deter crime.
According to FBI Crime data, the murder rate is 25% higher in death penalty states than in non-death penalty states. 88% of the country's top criminologists do not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to homicide.

2. The death penalty is expensive.
The Death Penalty is more expensive than the sentence of life without parole.
Studies from twelve states and the federal government all show that the death penalty costs taxpayers more than any alternative sentence.

3. Innocent people have been sentenced to death.
Since 1976, 156 individuals sentenced to death were later found innocent and set free. During that same period, the United States carried out more than 1,400 executions.

4. There have been numerous mistakes with the death penalty in Arkansas.
At least 25 Arkansans have had their death sentences reduced on appeal.

5. The death penalty is unfair and arbitrary.
A recent study by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock shows that Blacks are over two times more likely than whites to receive the death penalty for a charge of capital murder. Black Arkansans constitute 134 of the 195 executions that have taken place since the state began to keep records. An estimated 20% of all death row inmates suffer from a severe mental illness.

6. The death penalty is out of step with our values.
In 2015, only China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan performed more executions than the United States. More people were executed in the U.S. than in Iraq, North Korea, Yemen, or Somalia.

There are other reasons. Some even cite the Bible's injunction.

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