On Capital Punishment
Edited by Tom Morin

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT continues to be useless as a deterrent to crime'. The statistics researched by Reverend Lowell Grisham, rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Fayeteville and presented to his congregation confirm this. His message to the congregation follows:

"As a follower of Jesus Christ, who was himself a victim of capital punishment, I believe it is right to speak out. It is not an issue all Christian agree about. Many good and conscientious Christian support the death penalty, and I respect their opinions. This is one of many issues where moral people find they must agree or disagree.

"As your rector I feel I should offer you the reasons for my beliefs. I invite your criticism and input.

Our Criminal Justice System is imperfect

* Innocent people are executed. According to a study published by the Northwestern University Press, 23 people executed in the United States since 1900 have been proved innocent after their execution.

* Innocent people are convicted. Since 1973 82 people have been exonerated and released from death row and more than 20 have had their convictions overturned.

* People are executed when there are public doubts about their guilt. There is a new emphasis on faster executions, even in the face of increased discovery of judicial error thanks to DNA (testing) and new scientific expertise, the work of investigative journahsts, and expert attorneys. Rarely does the state seek to reopen a questionable death verdict.

* The death penalty is irreversible. If we can't have perfect confidence in the judicial system, we do not have the right to impose the ultimate penalty. Once someone is executed, you cannot undo an incorrect verdict.

Capital punishment is not a deterrent

* The death penalty had never been shown to be a deterrent to crime.

* Evidence suggests that he death permity may actually increase homicides. States with the death penalty have 6.6 murders per 100,000 people; states without the death penalty only 3.5. Neighboring states with the death penalty have higher murder rates that their neighbors without capital punishment. Violence begets violence.

Capital punishment is more cosdy than incarceration

* The most definitive study was done by the state of North Carolina. They found the state spent 2.16 million dollars per execution over imprisonment for life. California spends $90 million more for capital crimes then they would without the death penalty, $78 million more at the time of the trial. Texas estimates it costs three to four times as much to execute a prisoner than to incarcerate them for 40 years. At the federal level, seeking the death penalty produces 67% higher prosecution costs, not counting the law enforcement and defence costs often borne by the government) that are 4 times higher.

Life imprisonment costs an average of $500,000 per person. Execution costs $1 to $3 million per person.

The administration Of the death pengdty is flawed and unfair

* There are glaring racial inequalities in the way the death penalty is enforced.

* There are virtually no wealthy people on death row. The "O.J. Simpson's" find attorneys that can beat the system. Poor defendants often have inadequate legal defense.

* There is gender bias in the exercise of capital punishment.

* Mentally retarded and mentally impaired people are convicted and executed.

Capital punishment damages our country's leadership in he world

* Increasingly children are being sentenced to death. Only Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Iran sentences Juveniles to death. The U S. is number one in the world: 160 since 1973.

* Only China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia execute more people that the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and virtually all of the development nations have no death penalty. Their murder rates are considerably below ours.

"As a Christian, my hope for all people is repentance and amendment of life. By the tim'e most people, are executed, they are not the same person they were when they committed the crime they were convicted of Moses and David of the Bible could have each been convicted and executed for capital crimes. To kill someone is to give up hope for their potential goodness.

ăIn my opinion the strongrst argument in favor of the death penalty is concern for the living survivors of the victims of capital crimes. Many of them say they experienced a sense of closure and justice when the person who harmed them loved ones is gone. I am not comfortable telling hem they are wrong. Their sufferiiig and their feelings are profound. My intuition is that their souls are not nourished by executions. Vengeance is God's and God's alone. justice can be deeper than'an eye for an eye' But, I respect those who defend the sensitivities of the families of the victims of horrible crimes.

"Let me close with a quote from one of our heroes from the American Revolution, the Marquis de Lafayette: "I shall ask for the abolition of the punishment of death until I have the infallibility of human judgment demonstrated to me."

Rev. Grishom encourages those of you who are moved by the evidence to join the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Basic Membership is $10.00; higher levels are at $25.00, $50, and $100.00.
Write them at 103 West Capitol , Suite 1120, Little Rock, AR 72201. (501) 374-2660.

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