The former New York Governor - and father of the current governor - writes the OpEd, "Death penalty is dead wrong: It's time to outlaw capital punishment in America - completely," for the New York Daily News. As governor, he was an articulate spokesman against the death penalty and repeatedly vetoed legislation that would have restored capital punishment in the empire state. It's a must-read.
I have studied the death penalty for more than half my lifetime. I have debated it hundreds of times. I have heard all the arguments, analyzed all the evidence I could find, measured public opinion when it was opposed to the practice, when it was indifferent, and when it was passionately in favor. Always I have concluded the death penalty is wrong because it lowers us all; it is a surrender to the worst that is in us; it uses a power - the official power to kill by execution - that has never elevated a society, never brought back a life, never inspired anything but hate.
And it has killed many innocent people.
This is a serious moral problem for every U.S. governor who presides over executions - whether in Georgia, Texas or even, theoretically, New York. All states should do as the bold few have done and officially outlaw this form of punishment.
That law is a stain on our conscience. The 46 executions in the United States in 2008 were, I believe, an abomination.
People have a right to demand a civilized level of law and peace. They have a right to expect it, and when at times it appears to them that a murder has been particularly egregious, it is not surprising that the public anger is great and demands some psychic satisfaction.
I understand that. I have felt the anger myself, more than once. Like too many other citizens, I know what it is to be violated and even to have one's closest family violated through despicable criminal behavior. Even today, I tremble at the thought of how I might react to a killer who took the life of someone in my own family. I know that I might not be able to suppress my anger or put down a desire for revenge, but I also know this society should strive for something better than what it feels at its weakest moments.