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April 15, 2016

Making in Oklahoma the modern "conservative appeal against death penalty"

Richard Viguerie has this notable new commentary in an Oklahoma paper headlined "A conservative appeal against death penalty." Here are excerpts:

This election year, Republican and Democratic voters in records numbers agree on something: They distrust political leaders and the political establishment.  That same distrust applies to ambitious prosecutors, who are part of the political establishment.  Too many have been caught cheating to win convictions, withholding exculpatory evidence and using coerced confessions.

The bipartisan distrust of the political establishment is certainly increasing with regard to the death penalty.  The government's troubling track record of exercising its life-ending authority provides ample reason for concern.  Since 1973, more than 155 people have been released from death row because they were wrongfully convicted. Ten were from Oklahoma.  As an anti-abortion, pro-law enforcement conservative who believes in the sanctity of life and society's duty to protect the innocent, I find this unacceptable.

Oklahoma's well-documented wrongful convictions and failure to adhere to established execution protocols have shown that it cannot be trusted with properly carrying out the solemn responsibility of executing inmates. Oklahoma officials might soon compound these known problems by attempting again to execute Richard Glossip, a man who may well be innocent....

Conservatives are the leaders against government abuse and lawlessness. We understand that government can be callous about its errors, which are costly and cause harm to the innocent. When government tries to execute a man who may well be innocent, I believe we have an even higher calling to speak out.

Oklahoma's systemic failures and Glossip's case in particular are emblematic of what is wrong with America's death penalty. The death penalty's problems are a confluence of things that all Americans loathe: a big, broken, costly and dangerous government program prone to mistakes, and with questionable positive benefits.

It was recently announced that a bipartisan group of eminent Oklahomans would be donating their time to a first-of-its-kind review of the Oklahoma death penalty system. I urge all Oklahomans, and especially conservatives, to support the call for a moratorium on the Oklahoma death penalty until this commission has finished its task and made its recommendations.

The death penalty system, where errors are gravest, is prone to flaws and lawlessness like any other government program.

Recent prior related post:

April 15, 2016 at 08:39 AM | Permalink

Comments

Never thought I would agree with Richard Viguerie about anything, but I'm all in on this point. Well said indeed.

Posted by: Emily | Apr 15, 2016 9:54:58 AM

Interesting, indeed eye-opening perspective. Let me think about this.

Posted by: conservative2 | Apr 15, 2016 9:56:22 AM

There is an argument there. Some conservatives are against the death penalty and you can use conservative principles, religious and secular to argue against it. It's probably a small minority overall given conservative morality overall but take support where you can.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 15, 2016 10:14:14 AM

This "distrust government" argument is really stupid once you sit and think about it. The adjudication of guilt/innocence, from any standpoint, is a far more weighty decision than whether to give death to a murderer--yet we trust government to make this decision. So to accept that argument is to call into question the government's ability to resolve guilt/innocence. There are some rejoinders to that (necessity), but the argument is basically dumb and those who advance it are idiots.

The idiocy is embodied best here: "The death penalty system, where errors are gravest, is prone to flaws and lawlessness like any other government program." Really? The decision to give death to a murderer is far less weighty than guilt/innocence in pretty much any case. Execution of an innocent would, of course, be the worst, but that's a guilt/innocence issue, and at trial, all things being equal, a death case is going to get much more scrutiny, so it would seem that the chance of a flawed guilty verdict would be less where death is sought.

And, the death penalty brings a ton of scrutiny onto the criminal justice system as a whole, much of which I welcome. There is nothing wrong with legitimate scrutiny to make sure we're getting the right people.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 15, 2016 12:10:00 PM

Federalist, I respectfully disagree. As you have pointed out, prosecutors and law enforcement agents can be deceivers of the first order, withholding exculpatory evidence, forcing false confessions, etc. See E.G., Case of Michael Morton, one of many, many. We indeed have a right and duty to distrust "the government" when it comes to imposition of the death penalty. And juries are responding by imposing the penalty less often.

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Apr 15, 2016 1:44:53 PM

Mr. Morton likely rots in prison though, sans death penalty (I know that's not a principled argument, but one with some force)---my point, of course, is that death is less of an issue than the guilt/innocence.

I agree that we shouldn't "trust" government and that the criminal justice system needs to be scrutinized---but the idea that government is corrupt so therefore we cannot have death is so mind-numbingly stupid as to defy belief.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 15, 2016 2:32:15 PM

Here is a paragraph out of the above article:

Oklahoma's well-documented wrongful convictions and failure to adhere to established execution protocols have shown that it cannot be trusted with properly carrying out the solemn responsibility of executing inmates. Oklahoma officials might soon compound these known problems by attempting again to execute Richard Glossip, a man who may well be innocent....
Oklahoma's well-documented wrongful convictions and failure to adhere to established execution protocols have shown that it cannot be trusted with properly carrying out the solemn responsibility of executing inmates. Oklahoma officials might soon compound these known problems by attempting again to execute Richard Glossip, a man who may well be innocent....r

Now. Here is the paragraph with some revisions which make it more real:

Oklahoma's well-documented wrongful convictions and failure to adhere to established execution protocols have shown that it cannot be trusted with properly carrying out the solemn responsibility of killing humans. Oklahoma officials might soon compound these known problems by attempting again to kill Richard Glossip, a man who may well be innocent....

Posted by: Liberty1st | Apr 16, 2016 7:42:06 PM

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