In advance of a forum on capital punishment to be held at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, this Wednesday evening, the Lincoln Journal Star publishes two OpEds.
"The case against the death penalty," is by University of Colorado sociologist Michael L. Radelet.
The ways that Americans debate the death penalty have changed dramatically in the past 30 years.
Retribution and the need to help families of homicide victims have replaced deterrence as the top pro-death penalty argument, while concerns about erroneous convictions, disparities, cost and whether the penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst have become the most common points raised by abolitionists.
Both sides agree, however, that the burden of proof is on those who advocate its use. In other words, we should not take a human life unless it is an absolute necessity and unless the goals of executions cannot be achieved by alternative nonlethal means.
Perhaps the most crucial change in Nebraska law since the 1970s is that the alternative to execution is no longer 12-15 years in prison before parole eligibility. Today, in all the 33 states that still authorize death sentences, anyone eligible for the death penalty who is not sentenced to death will automatically be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Once convicted, we know the offender never will get out of prison.
Another change is that all agree that the costs of the death penalty have skyrocketed. Numerous studies from across the United States have uniformly concluded that the costs of the death penalty are astronomical, and several times more than the costs of life imprisonment without parole.
"Death penalty a question of just punishment," is by Nebraska Solicitor General J. Kirk Brown.
First and foremost, we are a country of laws. As a matter of law, neither our federal nor state constitutions prohibit death as a potential criminal penalty for the worst murderers.
Thus, the moral/public policy question is: Can people engage in behavior so reprehensible they deserve to die for their crime or crimes?
Adolph Hitler directed the deaths of more than 17 million innocent men, women and children. Did Hitler deserve to die? The 9-11 terrorists took 2,977 innocent lives. Timothy McVeigh blew up 19 children under the age of six and 149 adults. In Nebraska, Charles Starkweather murdered 11 people; Jose Sandoval, Jorge Galindo and Erick Vella slaughtered five people in a bank in Norfolk; John Lotter murdered three; Robert Williams, Carey Dean Moore and Marco Torres each murdered two; John Joubert and Arthur Gales each murdered two children; Roy Ellis, Raymond Mata and Jeffrey Hessler each murdered one child; Michael Ryan took three days to torture his victim to death; Willie Otey repeatedly raped and tortured his victim before taking her life.
When do we say enough is enough? When do we say, “This murderer deserves to die”? It is not a question of forgiveness or vengeance. It is a question of just punishment.
As for this week's event, the AP reports, "UNL's E.N. Thompson lecture to focus on death penalty." It's via the Omaha World Herald.
The death penalty will be the topic of this month's E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues lecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Nebraska Solicitor General J. Kirk Brown and University of Colorado-Boulder sociologist Michael Radelet will debate in the event, titled "The Death Penalty: Justice, Retribution and Dollars," at 7 p.m. on Nov. 28.
Brown and Radelet will explore questions such as whether the death penalty is humane, fairly applied, reduces violent crime or is cost-effective. They'll also examine the effects on the condemned person, the legal and judicial systems, victims' loved ones and the taxpaying society at large.
Earlier coverage from Nebraska begins at the link.