George T. Diller: No place for the death penalty in a civil society
Published: Monday, December 24, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 21, 2012 at 11:41 a.m.
On Dec. 11, Manuel Pardo was killed by the state of Florida at nearby Raiford prison. During his trial Pardo asked to be executed. So, Florida by granting his request, exercised, not execution, but virtual state-sanctioned euthanasia.
This act should at least alert Floridians to the moral ambiguity of the death penalty in our state.
Where does the death penalty stand in Florida today?
With a sentence of life in prison without any possible parole, it cannot be argued that the death penalty is necessary to protect society from dangerous individuals.
Nor can it be argued that the death penalty serves as a deterrent: All studies show that the capital crime rate is lower where there is no death penalty.
Vengeance, the only remaining moral argument, has no place in a civilized society such as ours.
Do we wish to keep company with China, North Korea and Saudia Arabia, while ignoring Canada, Mexico, England, Ireland, France, Germany and Australia where the death penalty has been abolished?
Finally, practically all religious organizations have expressed their deep opposition to the death penalty.
The American Bar Association, which condemns the death penalty, has studied legal issues which lead to unjust convictions and sentencing. Witness standards are especially low and vary from county to county. The state has refused to enact the recommendations of its own judicial commission, notably that all witness interviews and depositions be videotaped.
At the sentencing phase of capital crime trials in Florida (and Alabama), only a simple majority jury vote is required to recommend the death penalty, whereas this life/death decision in all other states in this country requires a unanimous vote.
Finally, it costs Florida four to six times more to kill one person than it costs to incarcerate that person for life. Politicians who really believe in “being tough on crime” should use the $51 million the death penalty costs the state every year to prevent crime instead of punishing after the fact.
In addition, only 62 percent of those who commit murders are ever convicted of their crimes. So many victims' family members are never “compensated” by the death penalty. Many victims' family members reject the death penalty; members of the killer's family are never considered for compensation.
So, what can you do to work for the end of state sanctioned death sentencing?
Write to our local state legislators:
Rep. Keith Perry (R-Dist. 21) firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Dist. 7) email@example.com
Rep. Clovis Watson (D-Dist. 20) firstname.lastname@example.org
Rep. Elizabeth Porter (R-Dist. 10) email@example.com
Ask them to co-sponsor and support Tallahassee Rep. Michelle Vasilinda's (D-Dist. 9) upcoming legislation to end the death penalty in Florida.
George T. Diller lives in Gainesville.