Monday, July 01, 2002
Judge, Jury and Anti-Executioner- Federal district judge Jed Rakoff took in upon himself to declare the death penalty unconstitutional, pointing out that the number of overturned decisions make it likely that an innocent man could be executed. It is good that being an idiotarian isn’t a crime under the new ICC, for Hizonner might be hauled up on charges for this one. Rakoff notes the number of overturned sentences, but it is precisely that strong appellate system that found these convictions that insures that the current law is constitutional. I’m not a fan of the death penalty. The decade-plus of appeals for most cases (five years if the convict wants to be executed) delays justice and costs the taxpayer a big chunk of changed for two legal teams for a decade, since public defenders will be dealing with most convicts’ cases. For all but the most aggreious mass murders, it is better to lock ‘em up for life than to string the process along for a decade. I can remember when John Gacy was executed in 1994, thinking to myself “It was over a decade ago that he confessed; the bodies were in the cellar.” He confessed in 1978; it took them sixteen years to execute a dead-to-rights guilty man. I’m also not comfortable with a secular government having the power of life and death over an individual. The Mosaic Law had capital punishment for far more crimes than today, but that government was a theocracy that was in better contact with God than today’s system. It doesn’t make us look good overseas, either, as it gives the Euroweenies more ammo to bash the US with; the US would have a better position to preach Anglospherian ethics without capital punishment gumming up the works. That being said, capital punishment is constitutional. It may be cruel, but (as Tom Jones would say) it’s not unusual. It’s been part of our judicial system since day one. The extensive appellate process gives excellent insurance that innocent people aren’t executed. Not perfect insurance, true; the Supreme Court hasn’t installed the hotline to God. I’d like the capital punishment foes to come up with one case of an innocent person being executed in the last 30 years since the current appellate system was instituted in the 70s. Just because something is wrong doesn’t mean it’s unconstitutional. We all need to remember that, including Judge Rakoff.
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