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The Death Penalty - page 3 of 3
by
Lester S. Garrett

(Published in "Liberty" Magazine, March 1996)

(concluded from previous page)

It must be stressed that these men were subjected to the exact same procedure as the Bundys.  They too were found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  But they were innocent.  They are not someone's hypotheticals; they are real flesh and blood human beings who were wrongly convicted and sentenced to death. 

And least I be misunderstood, let me make it clear that I have no compassion whatsoever for the brutal killers.  It is myself, my family, and my friends who concern me -- as they should you.  The same procedures which produced a verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt convicted two men: Bundy and Adams.  Yet one of them was innocent. 

Since there is no way to ensure that the procedure itself will not err or be abused, since there is no way to give a man back his life should you discover that a horrible mistake was made, and since there is another alternative, we must discard the death penalty.

We must abandon the death penalty because of the potential for error and abuse which is, of necessity, inherent in the system.  As the stories of the men above make all to clear, this is not some vague hypothetical theory.  It is all too frighteningly real.  Shorten the appeals' process, and many of those innocent men mentioned above would long since have been executed.

We must repeal the death penalty and substitute life without parole for our own protection; protection from abuse of the system and for our own safety's sake.  Not from some long-past abuse, but from abuse or error which occurs today and will occur tomorrow so long as human beings administer a criminal justice system. 

It is to protect each and every one of us from racial prejudice, or ambitious prosecutors who have forgotten why they are there, or incompetent defense attorneys, or innocent error that we must prohibit the one penalty which can not be reversed should we subsequently discover our mistake.  We must never forget that prosecutors, judges, expert witnesses and jurors are no more immune to prejudice, blind ambition, or error than the rest of us.  For the 'convenient' thing about the death penalty is that it allows the state to bury its mistakes leaving the guilty to walk free.  And it is unlikely that anyone is going to investigate a case once an innocent man has been executed.

If we truly believe in Justice we must abolish the death penalty.

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Lester S. Garrett
[email address]

copyright © 1995 Lester S. Garrett