It's Also Cheaper That Way Join Civilized World, End Death Penalty
Death is too good for some Death Row inmates, especially in these days of lethal injection. In most cases, the method of execution is considerably kinder than the method used by the murderer.
Still, I continue to believe that we should discard capital punishment as unsuitable for a civilized society, especially one that claims Christian heritage. The United States is one of the few Western countries persisting with this outdated and barbaric form of punishment.
Capital punishment puts the United States in the company of such countries as Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan and Syria. The death penalty has been abolished in Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany and Australia, allies that share our cultural heritage. In fact, countries must discard the death penalty if they wish membership in the European Union.
You would think that by now, the state of North Carolina would have done away with capital punishment altogether, what with DNA evidence clearing so many individuals charged with capital crimes. It's downright scary when you think about the number of people removed from Death Row because of DNA evidence and other latter-day findings.
Now comes a study by a Duke University economist who says the state could save an estimated $11 million yearly by dropping capital punishment. The alternative would be life in prison without any chance of parole - ever.
Philip Cook, an economist with Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy, counted the estimated cost of maintaining convicted murderers in the correctional system for the rest of their lives versus the cost of the execution process and the protracted appeal process, a requirement of state law in all capital cases.
Cook apparently did not consider all expenses connected with such trials. For example, he omitted the estimated saving in prosecutorial costs, probably because it's difficult to calculate that expense. Thus it appears likely the saving exceeds $11 million a year.
The desire to kill an individual who takes another life is a natural response but not a practical one. One argument in favor of capital punishment is deterrence. The only sure thing favoring that argument is that, once dead, the executed person is not around to commit another crime.
One local example of a capital punishment case where the handling could only be described as abysmal is that of David Junior Brown. He is the man convicted of the brutal murders of a Pinehurst woman and her 9-year old daughter in 1980. I was the reporter who covered the first trial, transferred to Union County because of intense reaction here in Moore County.
In keeping with state law, the appeal process was immediately launched, starting with allegations of inadequate legal representation. What followed was one appeal after another until Brown was granted a new trial.
New defense attorneys raised enough fresh questions that some presumption of innocence might have emerged, despite the most damning evidence of all - the finding of Brown's ring in the dead woman's liver. He was again sentenced to death and was executed in 1999, almost 20 years after the murders occurred. Another reporter was assigned to cover the second trial.
By the time Brown was put to death, the man had garnered sympathy in this country and abroad and charges of prosecutorial errors had attracted the condemnation of Amnesty International. And Brown had converted to Islam and was making virtuous noises of the martyrdom sort.
I have no idea how much it cost the state of North Carolina to conduct those trials, carry out the appeal process, maintain Brown in the prison system's most secure environment and execute him by lethal injection. But I do not doubt Philip Cook's statistical analysis. It cost us a bundle.
It's past time for North Carolina to join the handful of states that have already abolished the death penalty. That's one good way to prove we are civilized, even if the decision is based on economics.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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