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I Agree With A Conservative, Liberal On Death Penalty

Death Row
(Photo by Per-Anders Pettersson/Liaison)

Republican State Representative Steve Hickey and Former Democratic US  Senator James Abourezk agree the death penalty in South Dakota should be repealed.

Hickey is a pastor at a Sioux Falls church. He says after consulting the bible many times he has determined the death penalty is NOT what our society should be doing.

Abourezk says the death penalty is NOT a deterrent. Both have written columns which have appeared in the Argus-Leader.

It’s amazing – a right wing conservative and a left wing liberal agreeing on such a contentious issue. And for basically the same reasons.

People of faith cite scripture on both sides of the issue to support their pro or con position. People without faith have their reasons for thinking the death penalty is either wonderful or horrible.

When we experience the murder of children, savage beatings of gays, premeditated actions, killing a prison guard, it is hurtful to our souls. We grieve the loss along with the family. We want swift, sure, and complete punishment for the killer.

And if we were honest, some of us wouldn’t mind being the executioner.

After years of varying positions, I have come to this: the death penalty does not deter others from killing. If it did, there would be no murders in the states that have that ultimate solution.

Because we live in a country of laws, it takes many years to actually carry out the execution.

At this point I know some of you are probably saying that is the problem, it takes too long for justice to be done. However, because we are a country of laws, appeals are part of the process.

There are cases where we have learned after the fact the person executed did not commit the crime. People serving life sentences have been released after new evidence exonerated them. I don’t think any of us want to punish the wrong person.

Another reason for stopping executions is the continual suffering of the survivors. Every time an appeal is heard it is a news event. The survivors have to live thru the pain and loss again and again. That seems cruel to me.

In one South Dakota case, the murderer has been on death row 22 years. That is the same number of years the victim had lived before they were murdered.

I have never talked to a survivor. So I don’t know exactly how they feel. I imagine each survivor of each murder has a different perspective depending on their faith and emotional health.

As taxpayers we pay both sides of all appeals thru the court systems, state and federal. The lawyers doing that work charge pretty high hourly rates. Executing people is not a cheap process. And, yes, I know the life of the victim is priceless.

The never ending arguments about how we should execute the murderer are also troublesome. Two or three drug “cocktails” have been thru the courts many times, again at great public expense and probably private angst.

We are not going to go back to lynchings, firing squads, or the electric chair. Nor will we return to our European roots and stone, behead, or draw and quarter.  If we did, I think it would make us no better than zealots of a religion which have “laws” much stricter than our society can accept.

So I am a “lock the door and throw away the key” person.

There are fewer appeals in life without parole cases. Therefore less expense. And more importantly, the survivors don’t have to wonder the if’s and when’s. It is over, the murderer is gone from view forever. Assume that provides some closure to a senseless act.

The tax money we save by not paying lawyers to argue this issue should be used in two ways. First, counseling for the survivors and any others involved with the crime.  Second, I think we need to put more resources into mental health care in this country.

Surely we can agree that some one who willfully, or with uncontrolled rage murders another human, has a mental health problem. If we can show people ways to deal with anger, frustration, and hurt without resorting to violence, all of us would be better off.

I agree with liberal James Abourezk and conservative Steve Hickey, I believe it is time to stop the waste of time, money, and resources on executions. I think we should invest the same time, money and resources in survivors and preventing the carnage in the first place. .

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