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Death Knell for the Death Penalty

The American Law Institute, the organization that provided the framework for our current capital punishment system, has washed its hands of the whole sorry mess. Abandoning the death penalty was necessary “‘in light of the current intractable institutional and structural obstacles to ensuring a minimally adequate system for administering capital punishment.’” In other words, we don’t have a fair system, and we’re not ever gonna get one. Better to stick a fork in it than to keep pretending it will ever be workable.

Of course, this doesn’t mean everyone is going to suddenly do the right thing and end the death penalty in the United States for good. But it does mean those who want to maintain our patently unjust and immoral system won’t have an intellectual leg to stand on anymore. Something tells me that won’t bother a lot of capital punishment supporters, but it should worry those who actually carry it out.

A study commissioned by the institute said that decades of experience had proved that the system could not reconcile the twin goals of individualized decisions about who should be executed and systemic fairness. It added that capital punishment was plagued by racial disparities; was enormously expensive even as many defense lawyers were underpaid and some were incompetent; risked executing innocent people; and was undermined by the politics that come with judicial elections. …

‘It’s very bad news for the continued legitimacy of the death penalty,’ Professor Zimring said. ‘But it’s the kind of bad news that has many more implications for the long term than for next week or the next term of the Supreme Court.’”

It may take awhile, but here’s to another nail in the coffin of this brutal practice that degrades us all.

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