Monday, July 30, 2012

Support for the death penalty?

The impact of knowing the victim or circumstances of murder

The death penalty is at its lowest point of public support in 40 years.  Last fall, a Gallup poll had 61 percent of Americans supporting the death penalty, the lowest number since 1972.  Support peaked at 80 percent in 1994.

However, if violence touches an individual, even indirectly, support seems to soar.  Take Dan Gabler for instance.  His neighbors were murdered in Arizona.  One of the killers is scheduled for execution next month.

Gabler told the Arizona News, “I’d like to be there when they put the needle in him. I’d help them out,” He continued, “As far as I’m concerned they should have got a rope and hung Dan Cook right off the (London) bridge and charged pay per view for anyone who wants to see it. I’ve got no qualms about that man dying."

“They don’t deserve to live on the face of this earth,” Gabler said. “They were living by the law of the jungle, not the law of the land.”

After Timothy McVeigh was convicted of the Oklahoma City bombing 81 percent of Americans supported his execution.  That was more people than admitted to supporting the death penalty at the time. In 2006, when 65 percent of people said they supported the death penalty, 82 percent supported the execution of Saddam Hussein.

A look back at some execution in 2010 found responses similar to Dan Gabler.  Following an Ohio execution someone said, “The son-of-a-bitch is dead.”  In Georgia, “I hope he burns 70 times in hell.”  In Texas, as the execution approached, someone remarked, “I can’t wait for that bastard to take his last breath.”  Also, in Texas a victim’s supporter commented, “They should have hung him.”

The death penalty evokes a different response from individuals touch by the brutal death of someone they know  or circumstances they become aware of directly or indirectly.

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