Friday, April 1, 2011

The Cautionary Instruction: Death Penalty

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Ipso Facto
April 01, 2011

Has the death penalty lost its way in the muddled political rhetoric of 21st century governance?
Pennsylvania reinstated the death penalty in 1977. There are 222 killers on the state’s death row. Yet, Pennsylvania has executed just three men. All three waived their appeal rights and asked to be executed. Year after year, men and women in Pennsylvania continue to be tried, convicted and sentenced to death.
While Pennsylvania is having trouble carrying out executions, some states are having a tough time getting beyond the decision to have or not have the death penalty.
In Illinois, Governor Pat Quinn recently signed a bill abolishing the death penalty.
According to The Chicago Tribune, a state representative introduced legislation to reinstate the death penalty even before Governor Quinn signed the bill abolishing it.

Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed a bill outlawing the death penalty in 2009. The state’s newly elected Governor, Susan Martinez, has vowed to bring the death penalty back to New Mexico.
In New Jersey, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, sponsored the bill that abolished the state’s death penalty in 2007. Recently, he reconsidered his position on the death penalty in light of the shooting of an Arizona congresswoman and the murder of a New Jersey police officer.
Gusciora told The Trentonian, “I would vote on a bill today that would impose the death penalty.”
Ohio is literally setting the standard nationwide for the death penalty. Ohio is on the cutting edge of execution methods. Last year, Ohio executed eight offenders -- second only to Texas.
Ohio has executed two offenders in 2011 and has ten executions scheduled for the year. Ten executions in a year would be the most since the death penalty was reinstated in Ohio.

Just this month, Ohio State Representative Ted Celeste, introduced legislation to ban Ohio's death penalty. Celeste is not without allies. Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer, one of the authors of Ohio's death penalty statute as a state senator, has recently come out in opposition of the death penalty.
There are 3,373 inmates on death row. There were only 46 executions in 2010. The likelihood that an offender sentenced to death will ultimately be executed has become exceedingly rare. Yet, governors and legislators; prosecutors and defense attorneys; wardens and corrections officers consume a great deal of their time "tinkering" with the death penalty.

Lawyers and prison officials have to -- politicians want to.

Read last weeks The Cautionary Instruction: Crime, punishment and cash

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