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December 24, 2006

Thoughtful reflections on the death penalty

Writing for The Nation, Bruce Shapiro has this thoughtful examination of the current state of the death penalty.  Entitled "Questioning Capital Punishment," the piece explores various aspect of current capital debates.  I was especially drawn to this passage:

For the last decade, the issue that has driven the death penalty debate — galvanizing the attention of courts and press alike — has been innocence: a capital representation system so criminally negligent that 123 wrongfully convicted death-row inmates have been released, and public confidence in death sentences eroded.

Yet innocence cases, in their own way, have evaded a fundamental question: What about the grievously guilty?  What about what one pro-death-penalty legal scholar calls "the worst of the worst"?  Are executions of the truly guilty consistent with America's evolving constitutional standards, with national ideals and worldwide human rights norms?

UPDATE:  Along the same lines, the Washington Post today has this article spotlighting the how the death penalty crossroads in Maryland might impact the incoming Governor-elect.  Here is how it begin:

The emotionally charged, polarizing issue of the death penalty was barely mentioned during the campaign for Maryland governor.  And it hardly seemed something that Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley would be eager to wade into during his first months in office, when he plans to focus on "the things we agree on."

Yet the confluence of national currents and a Maryland court ruling last week halting executions on a technicality could make the death penalty a defining issue of O'Malley's tenure.  In effect, Maryland suddenly has a moratorium on executions, and the new governor, who is personally opposed to capital punishment, could play a pivotal role in determining when — and whether — it resumes.

December 24, 2006 at 11:47 AM | Permalink

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