Tuesday, November 29, 2005


An interesting event will take place this week as the United States will execute its 1,000th prisoner since the death penalty was re-instated in 1976. It will probably take place in Virginia, which will execute its 95th prisoner, second only to Texas with 355.

I have mixed emotions on the death penalty. I am mainly opposed to it due to the cost. Life without parole is a much cheaper alternative, although keeping the death penalty around helps steer criminals to plea to avoid it, so I'm not necessarily for banning it.

My only problem is that 122 inmates sentenced to the death penalty have been exonerated since its re-implementation. That's roughly 12% of the total we will have executed by week's end. If we are going to continue to apply justice in an irreversible manner, I think we owe it to ourselves to do a tad bit better than the upper eighties in correctly convicting people for capital crimes.

Critics might point out that the 12% number is misleading being that there are currently 3,415 inmates serving time on death row in America today, but I would like to point out that those inmates have yet to reach their demise. A few will be exonerated, and some will be executed, but most of them will simply die in prison from mostly natural causes. California currently has 648 inmates on death row, but has only executed 11 since 1976. With most of these inmates ending up serving life without parole, the only thing that has been accomplished is that we paid Cadillac prices for Geo sentences.

Approval for the death penalty is at an all time low so this event may lead to some renewed debate about its application, though it will probably get pushed aside if Rove gets indicted.

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