Tranquilos todos y sin apasionamientos tontos.
OPINION: Death Penalty: In the end, you support it too
By Gabino Iglesias
I'm an awful human being. I judge people. I even go further: I make judgments in my head about whether someone should live or die. What gives me the right to do that? Well, making judgments in a heartbeat has kept me alive so far. When I started thinking about writing a column about the death penalty, I was tempted to take the easy, funny way out. You know: Dane Cook groupies, people who wear fur, and racists should all be killed. Then I decided to stick to the facts.
For me, facts are very personal. Take these numbers into consideration: Texas, which is the largest state in the contiguous United States, has about 24.7 million residents and had about 1,300 murders in 2008. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico, where I come from, is 100 miles long by 35 miles wide, has 3.9 million residents and had about 850 murders in 2008. That's 65 percent of the murders with barely 15 percent on the population. So, what does Texas have that Puerto Rico doesn't? You got it: the death penalty.
This is the part where all the anti-death penalty folks jump out and scream that the death penalty is not a deterrent. Unfortunately for those folks, academic investigations proving that beyond the shadow of a doubt are as numerous as the articles and studies demonstrating exactly the opposite. In other words, researchers are still trying to figure out whether the death penalty has a deterrent effect.
The problem with all that research is that academics seek to generalize their findings to the larger population, when the only undeniable truth in all this mess is that every brain is a universe. For me, if the death penalty keeps one wacko from taking a shotgun to someone's chest, mission accomplished.
Let me take on the religious folks next. Bible-thumpers are the first to defend killers and rapists while condemning everyone else. I'll use their own favored tool: the Bible.
Sure, Romans 12:19 says, "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord." I, for one, tend to find God's absolute lack of immediate action a tad exasperating. When a guy rapes and kills a five year old, hand me the gun, syringe or knife: I'll gladly expedite his trip to deal with his God. Furthermore, Numbers 35:17 states: "If he struck him down with a stone in the hand, by which he will die, and as a result he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death." I'm not a religious man, but those are holy words I can get on board with. You killed a baby? All right, you deserve to die.
On to the incorrigible humanists. I'm a strong supporter of Human Rights. Hell, if you've read this column more than once, you already know I always write defending the rights of every conceivable minority and I'm always flipping the proverbial bird at the establishment. That said, an individual who puts a lot of premeditation and a healthy dose of malice into ending an innocent human life is not a human that deserves protection.
Last but not least, everyone else. Say it: "Innocent people have ended up on death row!" You're right: we need to tighten up the law. We need to re-open all cases of death row inmates that were sentenced to death before DNA testing and we need to re-open cases in which evidence was lost. Most of the exonerated inmates from the past few years were convicted before DNA testing: they all deserve a second chance.
Also, we need to take some crimes off the death-penalty list. I would take treason, espionage, resisting arrest, arson, robbery and kidnapping out of the list of crimes punishable by the death penalty, as long as they didn't result in the death of innocent victims. That said, all cases dealing with the murder and/or rape of minors, murder during the commission of sexual assault, aggravated assault and murder with aggravating factors (i.e. murder committed to escape arrest, the victim was younger than 6 years of age, murder was willful, deliberate and premeditated, etc.) should remain on the list.
With tighter laws and more control, I think most other opposition to the death penalty falls short when some monster takes a life. Ultimately, it's not about vengeance or justice: it's about eradicating a dangerous and costly problem in an effective way.
For great information on this debate, visit the Death Penalty Information Center at www.deathpenaltyinfo.org.