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Momentum against death penalty
Letter to the Editor
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Published: 12/29/2007 11:48 PM

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The death penalty offers the false impression that life is sacred, by taking it away.

Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, over 1,000 human beings have been stripped of their lives. Proponents of capital punishment claim that it brings closure to victims' families; it is cost effective compared to life without parole, and that the Bible endorses a vengeful mentality.

These myths have misled the American public for nearly four centuries. As of late, however, the Supreme Court has ruled favorably, numerous governors have acted decisively, and the American public has altered its perception on the effectiveness of capital punishment. Undoubtedly, the penalty of death is on the brink of execution itself.

Capital punishment has been deeply woven into the fabric of our society. Although crimes punishable by death have changed dramatically, one thing remains the same. Namely, the death penalty continues to violate the Eighth Amendment, which, in principle, protects Americans from "cruel and unusual" punishment. In 1972, when the historic Furman decision was handed down, public opinion toward capital punishment was at an all time low. The need for vengeance and retribution had given way to compassion and redemption.

Similarly, recent findings of innocent men being sentenced to death have altered public opinion as well.

To date, 126 men have been exonerated from death row -- 126 miscarriages of justice. All too frequently, men and women have come too close to the ultimate injustice, the state-sponsored murder of an innocent human being. This has undoubtedly provoked religious communities, politicians, judges, and the American public to reconsider the need for capital punishment.

A recent study in Wisconsin asked residents if they preferred the death penalty over life without parole. Fifty-five percent choose life without parole as the preferable method of punishment. The innocence movement has undeniably become the leading tool toward abolition.

This month, the movement to abolish the death penalty has endured unprecedented success. On Dec. 13, the New Jersey General Assembly passed an abolition bill 44-36. The bill replaces the death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine has signed the bill. The passage of this legislation marks the beginning of the end -- the end of the penalty of death in this nation.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 36 states currently have the death penalty as a legal form of punishment. However, Illinois has a formal moratorium in place, New York has ruled the death penalty unconstitutional, all states have effectively halted executions because of lethal injection issues, and 10 other states recently introduced legislation to abolish the death penalty. Out of the original 36 states with capital punishment, none have the approval to proceed with executions.

Boiling blood flows within the veins of each electric chair, reeking of arrogant injustice and medieval barbarism. This same blood circulated through the moral compass of Justice Thurgood Marshall's following attack on the death penalty. In the Furman decision he states that the death penalty "is excessive, unnecessary, and offensive to contemporary values." The recent actions of numerous governors and decisions from countless judges have certainly shown that contemporary values finally oppose capital punishment. Not only will the lives of death row inmates be spared; but soon, these condemned human beings will be integrated back into the general prison population. This is when justice will finally be served. In the end, compassion and redemption will overcome vengeance and retribution.

The abolition of capital punishment is inevitable.

Elliot R. Slosar

St. Charles