"California's Death Penalty Vote: It's Time to Reconsider 'Justice'," is Gabriel Daniel Solis' essay at Huffington Post. He's with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.
On Election Day, 52 percent of California voters cast ballots to keep the death penalty.
Such a small margin suggests that voters may be inching closer to abolishing capital punishment in the state. Advocates ran a well-coordinated, anti-death penalty campaign that offered compelling moral, legal and fiscal arguments that did not take hold of the electorate. So why did the majority vote to keep the death penalty?
Some commentators have noted that voters' decision to keep the death penalty was based more on their conception of "justice" than these other arguments. They suggest that the vote indicates a belief that "justice" for a murder victim can be only achieved when the murderer's life is taken away -- an "eye for an eye."
A complete concept of justice should more fully consider and understand the suffering of all those affected by crime. Justice should not be narrow, but expansive. It should consider all the contributing factors and consequences of crime and violence. It should go beyond simple reactionary instincts to punish, but instead focus on shared humanity and shared suffering. Justice should never be satisfied with incomplete narratives about crime that lead to harsh punishment, but should instead always strive toward fairness, equality and inclusion.
Those seeking to reform the criminal justice system should work to educate the public about the stories of all those who suffer at the hands of the criminal justice system.
Earlier coverage and commentary on the California ballot initiative begins at the link.