By Mason City Globe-Gazette
Calls to renew capital punishment come easy in the wake of horrible crimes such as the likely murders of the two young Iowa cousins whose bodies were recently recovered after having been missing for five months.
Some legislators have been calling for the state to bring back the death penalty, and Gov. Terry Branstad has said he supports the death penalty in limited circumstances, although he won’t push for it now because he realizes it has little or no chance of making it through the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate.
In the heat of emotion, we, too, can imagine wanting to kill anyone who could do such a horrible thing as to murder two small girls. A long, torturous death for that person would seem appropriate.
That’s why laws should be made not in the heat of emotion, but in the light of logic and facts.
The facts simply don’t support any justification for capital punishment other than for pure, simple, brutal revenge, and hopefully our society strives for a higher standard than that.
There are in-depth studies and tons of research that back all the reasons against the death penalty, but put simply, they are:
— The death penalty is discriminatory. You are far more likely to be put to death if you are a minority, or if you are poor and cannot afford your own attorney.
— The death penalty does not deter violent crime. Most law enforcement professionals agree with this, and FBI statistics show that states with the death penalty do not have lower homicide rates than states without it — in fact, in many cases death penalty states have among the highest murder rates.
— The death penalty wastes money. You might think it would cost more to keep a person in prison for life than to execute him, but that’s not true. Because of the process required to try to make sure an innocent person isn’t put to death, death penalty cases cost taxpayers far more than keeping someone in prison for life.
— Even in spite of that onerous judicial process, some innocent people are put to death. That fact alone should trump all others. Since 1973, more than 140 people have been released from death row because their verdicts were overturned due to new evidence or because of unfair trials. For the state to put even one person to death who does not deserve it should be unthinkable.
Iowa repealed the death penalty in 1965, joining almost all modern countries and a growing number of states without it.
In Iowa, if you are convicted of a capital crime you are sentenced to a long, slow death behind bars. There is no probation and no parole for people sentenced to life in this state. We’re satisfied that’s the way it should remain, and oppose any efforts to try to change it.