On December 28, the Cedar Rapids Gazette published the editorial, "Iowa does not need death penalty." It was originally published by the Des Moines Register.
An execution at the hands of the state is the ultimate penalty in this country. The government’s power to take a life is an awesome power, and it should never be undertaken lightly. Iowa has practiced capital punishment, on and off, dating back to its territorial days. The death penalty was repealed in 1872, restored six years later and repealed again in 1965. Since then, lawmakers have resisted several efforts to bring it back.
There are many sensible public policy reasons why it was wise to abolish capital punishment, not the least of which is the extraordinary cost associated with prosecuting capital punishment cases. The constitutional and procedural hurdles have driven the cost of capital cases to staggering heights. Florida’s 44 executions since 1976, for example, cost taxpayers $24 million for each execution.
Even law-enforcement authorities who may agree with the principle of executing murderers doubt its deterrent effect, and they say that money is better spent on effective crime control.
The procedural hurdles in death penalty cases were created for a very good reason: It would add injustice to injustice for the state to execute the wrong person. And yet it has almost certainly happened in this country.
The Quad City Times published the editorial, "Death penalty is not the answer," on December 26.
The death penalty always seems effective to many law-abiding Americans and lawmakers. But to desperate, often drug-addled criminals, the death penalty is just one more consequence in a lifetime of ignored consequences.
Countless studies dismiss the crime-fighting power of the death penalty. More studies affirm it costs as much or more than life imprisonment.
If more proof is needed, simply look in Illinois. When in force, the death penalty had no deterrent effect. Then Republican Gov. George Ryan ordered a moratorium in the face of mounting evidence of false convictions.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has supported a death penalty, but wisely acknowledges it lacks support among state legislators. “I like to focus on things that have a realistic chance of being approved,” he said earlier this month.
We’re thankful an Iowa death penalty has no chance of passing. Any momentary human satisfaction derived from executing the most violent criminals doesn’t offset its legal, ethical and moral implications.
We’re still among those who take guidance strictly from the Sixth Commandment, which never came with an asterisk.
Earlier coverage from Iowa begins at the link.