Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

October 1, 2013

WE THE PEOPLE: Deep-sixing the death penalty

CROSSVILLE — Capital punishment has had a varied history in our nation. It has been carried out in different ways down through the years: by rifle squad, noose hanging, gas chamber, electric chair and lethal injection.

Many myths surround the death penalty. One of these, that justice is even-handedly dispensed by the courts, is disproved by the fact that those sentenced to death are disproportionately the poor, people of color, the mentally ill, and those whose victims are white. The myth that the death penalty deters crime is disputed by studies indicating that capital punishment deters no more than other forms of punishment.

Many believe the myth that executions are cheaper than life imprisonment without parole. States are realizing that not only are death penalty trials costly, but that the appeals process that follows adds greatly to the cost, to say nothing of the cost to those who are on death row for ten to twenty years.

Justice, to be meaningful, should be swift and sure. The death penalty is neither, and under our current system drags on and on. Life without parole begins as soon as the victims’ families leave the courtroom and is served outside the spotlight of the news cameras.

The death penalty is an issue that divides our nation. Thirty-two states retain the death penalty while eighteen have abolished it. According to a December 20, 2012 article in USA Today, of those retaining the death penalty, 23 have not used it in ten years, while four states have been responsible for three-fourths of the executions in 2012. These states are Texas, Arizona, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.

Since 2011 three states—Illinois, Connecticut and Maryland—have abolished capital punishment. And California, with the largest number of death row inmates of all fifty states, has on its November ballot a ban on the death penalty. Tennessee has seventy-nine people presently on death row. It has put to death six prisoners since 1960.

Ten years ago, on October 10, the World Day Against the Death Penalty was inaugurated. Today in many states, groups are working towards the abolition of the death penalty, seeking alternatives to capital punishment. In Tennessee we have Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. The exoneration of people wrongly convicted (often with DNA help), the availability of prison terms without parole, and the high cost of capital trials and the appeals process are factors contributing to a decline in the death penalty.

The state of Georgia, where I lived for eight years, has killed fifty-three men since 1983. Many of these men had been on death row for more years than they had been free. At the time of their executions, in the last minutes of their lives, they were given a few moments to speak. What do you suppose they said at such a moment? Here are a few of their last words:

Roosevelt Green, Jr., executed January 9, 1985: “I love the Lord and I hope you love him, too.” (The book “A Lesson Before Dying” tells Green’s story.)

John C. Young, executed March 20, 1985: “The poor...don’t have a chance because the courts don’t really recognize them. People look on them as between human and animals, but we’re all from the same creation... This is the way America will always be... Being born black in America was against me.”

Warren McCleskey, executed September 25, 1991: “I pray that one day this country, which is supposed to be civilized, will abolish barbaric acts such as this death penalty.”

Fred M. Gilreath Jr., executed November 15, 1991: “My God has forgiven me, and I have forgiven all who have done me wrong.”

William M. Mize, executed April 29, 2009: “I’m here because of a travesty of justice.”

Troy A. Davis, executed September 21, 2011: “...I am innocent. The incident that happened that night is not my fault. I did not have a gun... I ask my family and friends to continue this fight. For those about to take my life, God have mercy on your souls. And may God bless your souls.”

(The above quotes appeared in Hospitality, the paper of the Open Door Community in Atlanta.)

• • •

This column is sponsored by Cumberland Countians for Peace and Justice and dedicated by the local writers to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world. Opinions expressed in “Lion and the Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact Ted Braun, editor, at 277-5135.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

  • Tidbits: Make the best of your road trip

    I didn’t care for road trips when I was young. It was so confining to have to sit in the back seat, staring out the window for hour after hour, hayfield after hayfield. And when you’re a kid, time doesn’t pass like it does when you get a little older. Just the trip from Jamestown, TN, to Crossville, roughly 30 miles, felt like an eternity!

    July 14, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Biased climate agenda will cost trillions

    For anyone who has been educated in the history of science and scientific method, this whole issue of “Global Warming” or “Climate Change” is an embarrassing and painful exercise.

    July 14, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Time for an oil change

    The land of Iraq, earlier known as Mesopotamia, has a long history going back to Neanderthal times some 60,000 years ago. Later, around 10,000 years ago, it became the site for some of the most important developments in human history: the invention of the wheel, planting of cereal crops, the development of cursive script, mathematics, astronomy and agriculture. Today it is recognized as one of the cradles of civilization.

    July 8, 2014

  • We the People: American women, be informed and vote

    Voting for today’s Republican Party and its Tea Party members, means you are voting against more than most realize.  This is especially true for women.

    July 8, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Parade
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel Clinton: "AIDS-Free Generation Within Our Reach" Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014