Let Justice Roll Down
By Diane Randall on 04/05/2012 @ 01:49 PM
We seek a society with equity and justice for all. We seek the abolition of the death penalty because it denies the sacredness of human life.
-FCNL Policy Statement
Last night, we took another step toward justice in our country. The State Senate in Connecticut voted to repeal the death penalty by a vote of 20-16. Next week, the House of Representatives is expected to approve the bill and Governor Dannel Malloy, a former prosecutor, has indicated he will sign it into law.
When I lobbied against the death penalty in Connecticut nearly 25 years ago, I knew that one day Connecticut would get rid of the bizarre law that grants government the authority to take someone's life. But I wasn't certain I would see abolition of the death penalty in the United States in my lifetime.
Yet, this is how change happens. Public policies on big issues with strong emotions can shift as elected officials understand the injustice of archaic laws that aren't effective. The death penalty doesn't deter crime; the 33 states with the death penalty don't have fewer murders. And, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, at least 138 people have been exonerated from death row with questions about their guilt in the last 50 years. Most recently, the Troy Davis execution in Georgia last fall made headlines as people around the world demonstrated for a stay of execution due to questions about his innocence.
Study after study demonstrates the racism inherent in administration of the death penalty; indeed, our entire criminal justice system struggles to eliminate the embedded racism that often isn't even recognized. (Witness the recent outpouring of demonstration across the country for the Trayvon Davis killing in Sanford, FL that has raised scores of questions about our criminal justice system.)
In the face of the anguish that murder victims' families must endure as they cope with the tragic and sudden loss of family members and they long for some form of justice and recognition, the irrefutable fact is that another death won't restore their loved one. And the systemic problems of the death penalty which appropriately takes years to come to a conclusion often means prolonging any sense of closure to their hope for justice. Many victims' families have supported abolition of the death penalty for this very reason.
We have a long way to go in our country to eliminate the death penalty; it will require sustained lobbying like my former colleagues in Connecticut have effectively done, and it will require all of us to continue using our voices to convince our elected officials one by one to support public policies like elimination of the death penalty that promote justice and equality.