Why I Will Not
August 4, 2000
I used to be for the death penalty. And why not? Anyone who, after due process, is found guilty if committing a heinous crime that results in the death of another, should be spared nothing.
At least that’s the way I used to think. Not anymore.
My change in heart arose when I asked: “What do we mean ‘found guilty after due process?'”
A recent news item declared two-thirds of all death sentences are later overturned. One reason this happens is the incompetence of defense attorneys. And while it may have been the defendant’s fault for choosing a loser for a lawyer, should a man pay with his life for hiring bad help? But what really surprised me was that a bad lawyer wasn’t even among the leading reasons found. Among the other reasons are judge’s mistakes, the withholding of evidence by the police, the withholding of evidence by prosecutors, and unreliable testimony by witnesses. Seven percent–that’s one person in 14–of those who have been on death row have been cleared by DNA evidence, alone. We’re not talking about legal loopholes or lenient laws here, we’re talking about people who would have been put to death except for the use of the latest scientific advances that show the police or prosecutor was wrong–or even hiding exonerating evidence, that show the judge was often wrong in how he admitted evidence, and, most of all, that the jury was wrong. I don’t know how big an error is acceptable to the American people, but one in fourteen has to be way out of line. And while the system may have worked for the one in fourteen, consider the others who don’t get the benefit of the latest forensic tools and wind up executed, though actually inculpable. It means a staggering number of people are put to death in this country by either incompetent or corrupt cops and prosecutors, incompetent judges, incompetent or lying witnesses, and juries who make bad decisions.
In a system that is supposed to be based on exonerating the accused where there exists a reasonable doubt, the entire manner in which we allow the system to take lives is now in doubt. What this study has revealed is that it should always have been in doubt. So, it’s not the death penalty for those the truly guilty that bothers me, it’s the executions of the innocents I’m against. And, until someone can show me a system that better knows how to distinguish between the two, I’m going to have to join the ranks of those with whom I formerly had no alliance: those who would abolish the death penalty.
This does not mean we have to let murderers roam our streets. There is the alternative of life imprisonment. We can keep the guilty caged while allowing the innocent the chance to overcome the flaws in the system that wrongfully condemned them so they can still win their freedom.
This brings me to the possible presidency of George W. Bush. Here’s a man who, as governor of Texas, has overseen the deaths of more American citizens than any other man in the United States. He is a man will lose no sleep over the evidence that at least 30 of the 460 people on death row in Texas today probably didn’t commit the crimes of which they are accused. But he’s going to sign their death warrants anyway–“with a heavy heart,” as he is fond of saying.
Bush often refers to himself as a “law and order” candidate and while he goes about with these executions he says, ”I’m going to uphold the laws of the land. If it costs me politically, it costs me politically.” Does this mean he’s also going to suspend the execution of all laws in violation of the 9th Amendment and, for instance, throw out all drug convictions? Is he going to order all police departments to stop enforcing any and all gun laws as they are in conflict with the 2nd and 14th Amendments? Is he going to order the state to cease enforcing all civil forfeiture laws that run counter to the 4th and 5th Amendments to that document which is the true “law of the land,” the Constitution of the United States? Is he going to throw the federal government out of the great state of Texas anywhere and everywhere it is not in compliance with Article I, Section 8 of that document?
Of course not. He’s going to pick an choose the laws he wants to uphold–the laws that will get him the most votes–just like every other politician.
What’s the alternative? Gore? Recently I read a news item in which Al Gore presented himself as “a law enforcement president” and proposed to hire 10,000 new prosecutors in communities nationwide.
Yeah, that’s what we need, 10,000 more prosecutors. The United States is already the most regulated society in human history. Our country now imprisons a larger percentage of its citizens than virtually any other country in the world. This includes Russia, China with its human rights violations, and any and every two-bit banana dictatorship in Africa and South America. Yes, folks, it’s happening right here, in the Land of the Free, where we are supposed to have inalienable rights protected by the First Ten Amendments to our Constitution. Right here, in America, where, as school children, we are fed nonsense about how half a million of our boys died on foreign shores to preserve our freedom. It was nonsense because the biggest threats to our freedom have never been Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, or their ilk. The biggest threat has always been from our own government; the Bushes and Gores of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
At this moment we have a president in office who instituted a plan, called COPS, to put 100,000 more officers on the streets to enforce the thousands of unconstitutional laws we already have. Gore wants to expand this by another 50,000. We don’t need more cops. We need fewer laws. We need to remove from the books every law that violates any part of the Constitution and its Amendments. This includes all victimless and consensual crimes including the drug laws, the gun laws, and the new affirmative apartheid laws.
Both of these men, Bush and Gore, call themselves “law and order” candidates while systematically ignoring “the law of the land”–the United States Constitution. Both are doing their part to make the land of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Mason, and our other Founding Fathers more of a police state when what we need is more respect for the inalienable rights of our citizens. What we need is a president who honors the deaths of the half a million men who supposedly shed their last blood for freedom.
Are there alternatives to Bush and Gore?
Of course there are. But don’t waste your time trying to find out who they are because you’re not going to vote for any of them anyway. What you’re going to do is vote for “the lesser of two evils” so that you “won’t throw your vote away.” You’re going to reward those who will erode your rights even more with that grand prize, the presidency.
Folks, on election day, you’re going to get what you deserve. That is the reason Bush and Gore will be the candidates of the two major political parties.
The trouble is, I’m going to get what you deserve, too.