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Death penalty: Yea or Nay?

A while ago, a national poll indicated that over 60 percent of those polled favored the death penalty for capital crimes. This is particularly significant because the United States is one of the few, if any, so-called civilized countries that espouse capital punishment. This means that the United States has the dubious distinction of being in the company of North Korea, China, some of the Mideast countries, and some African nations.

There are arguments both pro and con for capital punishment. Arguments for capital punishment include quotations from the Bible, and "it's cheaper to kill them than to imprison them for life,'' while others approve of capital punishment because it's the right thing to do. The arguments against capital punishment also quote the Bible; others say it is wrong to kill and to them religion has nothing to do with it. Other opponents to capital punishment say that appeals to execution sentences cost the taxpayers just as much money over the years as executing a felon.

The most compelling argument against capital punishment is the fact that many people have been executed over the years for capital crimes that they never committed. One recent case in the news reported that two black men were found to be innocent of a murder 40 years ago. The original conviction was based on the testimony of a 12-year-old boy, who recently recanted his testimony and indicated that he had been pressured by the police at that time. With the advent of DNA technology, other alleged murderers have been found to be innocent and, if justice had been swift, as it seldom is in the United States, those accused would have been executed. Others were executed.

What are some possible solutions to the above problems? Given the progress that has been made in technology, is it possible that polygraphs (lie detectors) could be developed to the extent that they would be 100 percent accurate? If this is possible, one also wonders if the judicial aspect of the government would approve of such a development since it might reduce the need for judges and lawyers, as well as shorten or eliminate the need for many trials, thus reducing the incomes of lawyers, judges and the rest of the legal support personnel.

Since this suggestion is not viable at this time, for some of the reasons noted, the implementation of a "professional jury'' has also been suggested by some legal pundits. Such juries would receive appropriate training and there is a possibility that there would be less chance that a professional jury would be swayed by emotion or other factors like many "pick-up'' juries have been in the past and will be in the future. An added advantage of a professional jury would be the reduced need to screen large numbers of prospective jurors off the street as will be the case in the upcoming Aaron Hernandez trial.

As with all controversial questions, there are two sides to every argument. I have attempted to paint both sides to this question in a cursory manner. I tend to be against capital punishment, primarily because there have been many instances where innocent people have been executed. For those who do espouse capital punishment, I would offer up the suggestion that life imprisonment might be just as effective as capital punishment if you believe in vengeance, and it might also give the person serving the sentence time to come to the Lord. In the cases of Muslim extremist terrorists, who believe killing nonbelievers will get them into paradise, the worst thing that could happen to them would be to put them in prison without the hope of going to paradise, at least not for now.

Since all decisions are reached depending on which side of the fence you may be standing, I would leave you with this question: If someone in your family murdered somebody, would you still favor the death penalty? Remember, every person who commits a capital crime has a family. The death penalty -- yea or nay?

Frank Mitchell is a Lancaster resident and the former superintendent of school.
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Title Annotation:Coulter
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jan 16, 2015
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