Thursday, March 10, 2011
Illinois abolishes the death penalty
I was pleased to read today that the state of Illinois has abolished the death penalty.
I don't dispute the right of the State to execute criminals deserving of such a penalty: but I'm profoundly troubled by the number of people who've been convicted of serious crimes (and some of them sentenced to death), only to be exonerated by subsequent evidence. Illinois has seen more than a dozen such cases, and there've been well over 200 in the whole of the USA.
Illinois Governor Quinn is quoted as saying: "We have found over and over again: Mistakes have been made. Innocent people have been freed. It's not possible to create a perfect, mistake-free death penalty system." I absolutely agree with him. If we can't guarantee that the people we're executing are definitely guilty, beyond any possibility of doubt, then we shouldn't be executing them. At least a life sentence holds out the possibility that subsequent evidence, if it exists, may correct a judicial wrong. If the convicted person has been executed before that evidence can be presented, it's too late.
I know many will accuse me of being 'soft' on crime because of my opposition to capital punishment, but it's not that at all. Give me a system that's absolutely, unfailingly guaranteed to convict only the guilty, and I'll support capital punishment. However, to execute even one innocent person is too many. As long as that risk exists, I'll oppose capital punishment.