It’s Long Past Time to Finally Kill the Death Penaltycsudhbulletin April 25, 2019 0 COMMENTS
By Alex Graf
On Tuesday, Mar. 12, California Governor Gavin Newsom made the controversial decision of putting a moratorium on the state’s death penalty.
Critics of the decision were quick to point out that California voters rejected a ban on the death penalty as recently as 2016, by a seven-point margin. And it’s true that it is favored by a majority of Americans. A Gallup survey from Oct. 2018, found 56 percent of Americans favor the death penalty and 41 percent who are opposed.
So why would Governor Newsom make such a controversial decision so early in his tenure as our state’s governor? Perhaps because there are a number of compelling reasons to oppose such a policy and Newsom feels that it’s time to take a stand and make the case against the death penalty.
It’s no secret that Governor Newsom is a Democrat, and many of those lamenting his decision are criticizing him from the right, but one of the best arguments against the death penalty is a conservative one. A core value of conservative ideology is the rejection of “big government” policies and the embrace of individual freedoms; so how then does a policy in which the government makes decisions about who among us will live and die reconcile with the value of limited government power?
Another argument against the death penalty for all of you fiscal conservatives out there is the sheer cost of carrying out capital punishment. It might seem logical to assume that simply killing someone would be cheaper than letting them live out the rest of their life in prison, but it turns out just the opposite is true. A cost analysis from Lewis and Clark Law School and Seattle University found cases in Oregon that resulted in a death sentence cost between 3.5 and 4 times as much as similar cases that did not result in a death sentence.
If that’s not enough for you, the notion that the American criminal justice system is an infallible moral arbiter that is capable of carrying out the death penalty in a wholly righteous fashion is a deeply problematic one. A Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences from 2014 found at least 4.1 percent of death row inmates would ultimately be exonerated if they remained on death row indefinitely.
Another flaw of the death penalty is that is disproportionately applied to people of color. Not only are cases with white victims far more likely to receive the death penalty compared to cases with Black or Hispanic but those sentenced to death are disproportionately people of color. In 2012, a Houston Law Review found cases with white victims ended in a death sentence at 2.5 times the rate of what would be a racially blind system and 5 times the rate of what would be a system blind to race and gender. The Supreme court even ruled in 1987 (McClesky vs. Kemp) that patterns of racial disparity in the imposition of capital punishment were not a violation of one’s right to “equal protection under the law,” codifying the racial bias of the death penalty into law.
The death penalty is an archaic, racist, inhumane and unjust institution. For far too long, it has cost us far too many resources and far too many innocent lives. California and other states that have taken this courageous step are leading the way. It’s time to end the death penalty.