Friday, February 20, 2009

Montana Trying to Abolish the Death Penalty.

I saw this report today on Talk Left.

From the New West Politics site we have the following wonderful news.
With a 27 to 23 vote, Montana State senators on Tuesday approved a bill that would abolish capital punishment. Montana is one of 36 states that currently has the death penalty and bill sponsor, Democrat Dave Wanzenried of Missoula, hopes that will change. His bill would replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole.

For me that's a little too close for comfort. The bill, sponsored by the Democrats and opposed by the Republicans, must pass another vote before heading to the House.

As reasons, Wanzenried cited the facts that keeping someone on death row is costly and cumbersome, with appeals of the sentence wearing on a victim’s family. Why is it that no one seems to talk about the inherent contradiction in killing someone for killing someone? If the first act is wrong, how can it be addressed by the same kind of wrong? Is this too philosophical to sell to people?

Diann Rust-Tierney, Executive Director of the NACDP (National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty) posted a statement on Google News yesterday.

In her statement, Ms. Rust-Tierney mentions the oppressive costs as well as the awful prospect of executing an innocent person. She mentioned the stress caused on the victim's family, as did the Montana Senator. They both mentioned that with a life sentence without the possibility of parole, you have an immediate conclusion, or at least as soon as a trial can be undertaken, whereas with the death penalty you have nearly interminable appeals and decades of waiting for the final result.

I hadn't thought of that as a benefit. Do you think that would work? I don't. Aren't the surviving family members usually interested in vengeance, or as they often describe it, "justice?" A life sentence just wouldn't do it for them, regardless of how quickly it's delivered. The sad irony is that I don't believe the execution gives them satisfaction either.

Missing in the comments of Diann Rust-Tierney, in my opinion, is that elusive idea of the death penalty just being wrong, morally and ethically.

Someone who gets it exactly right is Aundre Herron. The following text accompanies the video on Youtube.

The California Commission on the Fair Administration held its first of three public hearings on California's broken death penalty on January 10, 2008. Representatives from California Crime Victims for Alternatives to the Death Penalty spoke at the hearing, including former prosecutor Aundre Herron. In this video, Herron describes her initial reactions to her brother's brutal murder, as well as why the death penalty does not help victims. To learn more about Aundre's story, and the stories of other victim survivors, visit:

What's your opinion? Is there something to that idea of giving the family members quicker results by abolishing the Death Penalty and finalizing the whole awful business with a speedy trial and a life sentence? Would that be less traumatic and stressful for them?

What about the cost? Often people say keeping someone in prison is too expensive, we should just execute them. But with our "broken" system, it actually costs more to bring a murderer to the point of execution. What do you think about that? Should we just fix the system to make it more expetitious and more cost-effective?

Or should be abolish the Death Penalty?


  1. I agree with you, Mike, the system IS broken, and when a death sentences is NEVER carried out in the same decade as the crime, the benifits to society are mitigated.

    With our current system, and Life without Parole, I'd take life.

    Of course "Life Without Parole" often doesn't mean as such, so that system is just as broken.

    But I wonder if you even want to talk about that at all.

  2. Of course I want to talk about it. I'd be quite happy with abolishing the death penalty and enforcing the life without parole sentences literally.