There are currently more than 700 people on death row in California. There have been no executions in this state since 2006. The Governor of the State of California has asked the state legislature for an additional $3.2 million dollars for more cells to house the death row inmates. Is this a wise use of state resources? Proponents of pro and anti death penalty camps can point to this request with questions. Should the overcrowding on death row be reduced by executing more people? Is the death penalty cruel and unusual punishment banned by the 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution? Would death provide closure to the victims families of the crimes that led to the conviction of the defendant? Should society have the power to exact vengeance on the perpetrators of crime? Are we “playing God” by making this decision? How many appeals should be adequate to allow a defendant to have their conviction overturned and if it is now, then how long should sentence of death be delayed? If a defendant is exonerated should compensation be provided to the defendant? If so, how much compensation would be reasonable? Should it be a lump sum, a yearly stipend for the time in jail, or something else? Can and should society even compensate a defendant at all?
The above questions and others on this issue cross philosophical, political and religious lines. There may not be a clear answer to any of it. Science has progressed through the use of DNA to free those who have been convicted (wrongfully) of crimes they did not commit. If we rush to initiate a death sentence, and it turns out it was erroneous, how can the loss of a life be compensated? Should the victim pay? Should the State pay? Should something else occur? The religious ties to this issue are in the Ten Commandments (though shalt not kill). Does society have the power to execute persons who have committed crimes so horrible that they lose the right to continue living?
Various states are beginning to experiment with new ways of carrying out capital punishment. Utah has now allowed limited access to firing squads for certain crimes. TXhas been very active in allowing executions. Lethal injections have come under fire recently because at times, they have not worked properly. Should we let science continue developing new and better ways to execute people? What is a humane execution? How long should it take? Do we want the perpetrator to suffer for time? If so, for how long? Do we want to have the victims families or loved one attend the executions? Are the executions racially motivated? Do we need to expand or contract the crimes for which capital punishment is available? These issues will be part of the upcoming political season. They need to be carefully and fully evaluated by the electorate and politicians. Once again, tying in a prior article, those with an opinion (either pro or con) tot he death penalty need to get out and express their opinion by appearing at the polling place and cast their votes to support whatever position they want to express on this and other issues. Times change and people change. Has society evolved to a point where the death penalty should be expanded or contracted? Time will tell.