A few years ago, the Governor of Illinois imposed a moratorium on the death penalty in that state because of his well-founded fear that wrongfully-convicted people might be executed. Then, just last month, the American Bar Association issued a report in which it identified numerous problems with Ohio's existing death-penalty scheme. No doubt many of those same problems exist in other states' death penalty systems as well. And now, the United States Supreme Court has decided to hear oral arguments regarding the issue of whether lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. (To learn more about this important case, go to the website for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.)
When will we as a nation realize that the death-penalty system that currently exists in 37 states and in the federal judicial system is fatally flawed and needs to be discarded once and for all? Why not have a system of justice in which individuals who are convicted of first-degree murder are sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison with no possibility of early release? Wouldn't that system be far less expensive than the one we have now? And wouldn't that system bring finality to cases much more quickly than the current system in which death-penalty appeals often go on for years? Fortunately, the Innocence Project has uncovered many wrongful convictions thanks to DNA evidence. But how many wrongful convictions will never be discovered because no DNA evidence exists in those cases? Isn't it possible (if not likely) that some of those wrongfully-convicted individuals are currently located on death row awaiting their execution? It's time that we abolish the death penalty in this country once and for all and establish instead a just system of punishment in capital cases.