Risk too high with death penalty
A controversial Supreme Court ruling last week spared the lives of some of the nation’s worst. No, I’m not talking about murderers; I’m talking about child molesters. Several states, including Texas, had laws on the books allowing the death penalty to be used on people convicted multiple times for child rape.
These laws were struck down in a typical 5-4 ruling on the grounds that, in the words of Justice Anthony Kennedy, "the death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child." That is, if no one is killed then it is inappropriate to kill someone for it. It is important to note it is still possible to incarcerate a child molester for life without the possibility of parole.
The ruling evoked mixed emotions, with some disagreeing, saying child molesters deserve to die and the only way to protect children is to allow the death penalty. Others say they either don’t believe in the death penalty or they believe it too harsh for the crime.
It’s hard to imagine many crimes worse than the rape of a minor; it is unquestionably a sick and evil act. I have never met anyone who excuses child molestation or doesn’t view it as a serious crime. The issue is not if we should punish child molesters, but how. Even without the death penalty as an option, Texas still has harsh laws on the books to deal with child molesters. The question is, is prison enough?
As an opponent of the death penalty I would have to say yes. To note, I have no problem with murderers and child molesters being put to death. Sound like a contradiction? Well, we have an imperfect criminal justice system. It is an unfortunate fact that innocent people are found guilty and, yes, even put to death. Prior to DNA testing and other forms of evidence false convictions occurred at a much higher rate, and the system is still not perfect.
According to Murphy’s Law, if something can go wrong it will. The criminal justice system is no exception. In light of this, I can never lend my voice to the death penalty. New technology may eventually make the system flawless. At that point I would reconsider my opposition, yet I will not support a policy that may send innocent people to an undeserving death.
Some people would disagree, and their anger and desire to deal just punishment to the guilty is understandable. Yet it is hard to support a policy that sacrifices the innocent on the altar of vengeance.
Many will sympathize with the victim and in their anger call for the death of the person or people thought guilty. Yet I ask you, what if your father, mother, brother, sister, lover or friend was accused? What if your loved one was put to death for the crime? That alone would be devastating enough. Now imagine they never committed the crime; the child misidentified the rapist, and DNA was later found to have been tampered with. An apology does not bring back the dead.
Busby, a english sophomore, can be reached via [email protected].