Best-selling author Thomas Cahill writes, "Why do we keep executing people?" for CNN. Here's an extended excerpt from the beginning of this must-read:
Killing people by lethal injection will soon be as distant a memory as burning heretics at the stake and stoning adulterers -- at least throughout the civilized world. No country that employs the death penalty can be admitted to the European Union, and the practice dwindles daily.In addition to his best-selling histories, Cahill is the author of A Saint on Death Row, published in 2009. Earlier coverage of Saint begins at the link.
But despite the growing worldwide revulsion against this lethal form of punishment, Texas and a handful of other states continue to take their places among such paragons as North Korea, China, Yemen and Iran in the club of those who attempt to administer the death penalty as a form of "justice."
Indeed, Texas is way ahead of all other states in the administering of such justice. At the end of this month, under the leadership of Gov. Rick Perry, the state is expected -- if all appeals fail -- to celebrate its 500th judicial killing since our Supreme Court in 1976 reinstated the death penalty as a legitimate form of "justice," despite the fact that an earlier court had determined that the death penalty was "cruel and unusual punishment."
No one doubts that the woman who is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, Kimberly McCarthy, is guilty of the 1997 murder of her neighbor, a 71-year-old woman and a retired college professor. Although we know that upwards of 10% of all death row prisoners are later exonerated for the crimes for which they have been convicted, Kimberly McCarthy will not be one of them. So, why shouldn't we kill her?
For the same reason Warden R.F. Coleman gave to reporters on February 8, 1924, the day the official Texas Death House was inaugurated with the electrocution of five African-American men. Said Coleman then, "It just couldn't be done, boys. A warden can't be a warden and a killer, too. The penitentiary is a place to reform a man, not to kill him."
Warden Coleman resigned rather than pull the switch. Sadly, so many others have failed in the many years since then to follow his heroic example.
And let's not equivocate: Often, and in every age, doing the right thing requires heroism.
Earlier coverage of Kimberly McCarthy's case begins in the preceding post.