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By Jennifer Maffessanti

Earlier this year, I participated in a press conference announcing the launch of the Georgia Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty, which is a statewide network of conservatives and libertarians who believe capital punishment violates our values. The event featured well-known speakers from across the state, and I was proud to take part. However, I wasn’t always opposed to the death penalty.

I was raised as a conservatarian, which is essentially a cross between conservatism and libertarianism, and I supported capital punishment for much of my life. I felt that there were certain crimes that were so heinous that the perpetrator had forfeited their right to live among other humans, and for some time, I didn’t question my death penalty position. Yet, once I became a mother, I started asking myself what kind of world I wanted my children to inherit. So, I became more politically involved and began to critically reexamine my views on a great many things, including the death penalty. Over the course of about 5 years of considering capital punishment, I finally turned against it, and I now view it as little more than a gross overreach of government power.

When I researched capital punishment, I was increasingly shocked by what I found, which is what ultimately changed my thinking. Thus far, over 156 people nationally and 6 in Georgia have been released from death row because they were wrongly convicted. That’s 156+ individuals who easily could have been wrongly executed had the mistakes that led to their convictions not been discovered. Others have indeed been executed even though plenty of questions about their guilt remained. This is a heartbreaking fact, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone.

The staggering number of exonerations indicates that we have some fundamental problems in our criminal justice system. The human element in our judicial process makes the whole idea of a functioning, efficient, and efficacious death penalty absurd. It requires a level of knowledge and insight that is just not possible. There are no greater stakes than life and death, and so long as the death penalty remains an option, innocent lives are endangered.

While the risk to innocent lives is paramount to my death penalty opposition, there are a host of other reasons that gave me pause, including capital punishment’s expensive nature. The monetary costs are shockingly high. This is because capital trials are much longer and require more resources. Then there are several stages of mandatory appeals, while the perpetrator is kept in a special section of prison, death row, which is incredibly costly. All of this quickly adds up and is quite expensive. Statistics vary, but according to a host of studies, the death penalty easily costs many millions more than life without the chance of release.

The taxpayers are charged for this enormously expensive program, but it really doesn’t help ‘We the People.’ I don’t think it deters homicide in the least. Many murders are crimes of passion or they were committed by people with intellectual disabilities. During the commission of these crimes, these individuals weren’t rationally thinking about possible consequences. Therefore, the death penalty fails to adequately protect society, and there are even studies that have clearly made this point.

The impact on murder victims’ families is another issue that demands our attention. It’s often said that capital punishment exists, in part, to serve justice to murder victims’ families, but the process is, in practice, quite harmful to them. Prosecutors who are bent on seeking death frequently offer promises to them, stating that their case is a slam-dunk, which will be resolved quickly and result in an execution. These promises largely never come true. Furthermore, the process is complex and drawn out, which means during every trial appearance, appeal, and media story, the loved ones of the slain must relive their loss and pain. That is cruel in and of itself.

Georgia’s death penalty system is afflicted with the same flaws as any other state’s capital punishment program. We can and must do better, and since nobody has been sentenced to die in Georgia in nearly 3 years, I believe the process of reexamining the death penalty is already underway. However, our goal should be nothing short of eliminating capital punishment because it empowers an error-prone government comprised of flawed humans with a great authority with which it can’t be trusted. Humans are simply too imperfect to apply an irreversible death penalty with regular accuracy. Given what we know, repeal is the only answer.

EDITOR’s NOTE: The views expressed are those of the author, they are not representative of The Libertarian Republic or its sponsors.
Jennifer Maffessanti is the Chairwoman of the Atlanta Chapter of America’s Future Foundation and a founding member of Georgia Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

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  • Dudley Sharp

    I have no idea what it is going to take for you folks to fact check, anything in the death penalty debate.

  • C. Mauer

    To understand more about the 156 persons who were “wrongly convicted,” read the critique of the DPIC’s innocence list at http :// www .prodeathpenalty .com/dpic .htm .

    • DarthYan

      that list is crap. In many of the places the police were proven to be flagrant liars and evidence was disproven. While there are a few on the list….90% or so are.

  • Chad Poehler

    “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” (Genesis 9:6)

    “You shall not accept indemnity in place of the life of a murderer who deserves the death penalty; he must be put to death.” (Numbers 35:31)

    • DarthYan

      the same books say you should beat your child to death for mouthing off

      • Dudley Sharp

        Darth:

        The USA relevance, of those two biblical passages, is that the both deal with murder, the crime, overwhelmingly, subject to the death penalty in the US.

        The Genesis passage is within the Noahic Covenant, which is for all peoples and all time and the Numbers passage indicates that murder is the only crime/sin which cannot find specific mitigation to be excused from execution.

        It is of importance, generally, only to those of faith or others interested in historical and/or traditonal references.

      • Brian Seymour

        “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death.” (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

        If we still followed that law today, you would not have made it past your teen-age years, Darth.

        • DarthYan

          my point is that the old testament is a barbaric piece of crap that belongs in the dustbin

          • Brian Seymour

            “Vengeance is a special virtue…. Two vices are opposed to vengeance: one by way of excess, namely, the sin of cruelty or brutality, which exceeds the measure in punishing: while the other is a vice by way of deficiency and consists in being remiss in punishing, wherefore it is written (Prov. 13:24): ‘He that spareth the rod hateth his son.’ But the virtue of vengeance consists in observing the due measure of vengeance with regard to all the circumstances.” (Thomas Aquinas, SUMMA THEOLOGICA, Part 2, second part, question 108, article 2)

            I fail to see how the death penalty for murder is excessive or barbaric.

  • Dudley Sharp

    Jennifer:

    Innocents are more protected by the death penalty, as detailed:

    The Death Penalty: Saving More Innocent Lives
    http(COLON)//prodpinnc.blogspot(DOT)com/2013/10/the-death-penalty-do-innocents-matter.html

  • C. Mauer

    Many or most of the persons on the DPIC’s “innocence list” had their conviction overturned at the AUTOMATIC review of their case, due to legal technicalities or insufficient proof of their guilt, NOT because they proved their innocence.

    That demonstrates that our system would rather set a guilty man free than risk executing an innocent man. And that’s exactly as it should be.

    • DarthYan

      except that’s not true. In many evidence was proven to have been forged or officers lie

    • Dudley Sharp

      Mauer:

      Sadly, very true.

      Since 1973, it seems at least,

      16,000 additional innocents have been murdered by those known murderers that we have allowed to murder, again – recidivist murderers, and

      400,000 innocents have been murdered by those known criminals that we have allowed to harm, again – recidivist criminals, and

      There are no known actual innocents executed, at least since the 1930s.

      from

      The Death Penalty: Saving More Innocent Lives
      http(COLON)//prodpinnc.blogspot(DOT)com/2013/10/the-death-penalty-do-innocents-matter.html

  • Dudley Sharp

    Jennifer:

    Regarding the 156+ released, please fact check:

    The Innocent Frauds: Standard Anti Death Penalty Strategy
    READ SECTIONS 3&4 FIRST
    http(COLON)//prodpinnc.blogspot(DOT)com/2013/04/the-innocent-frauds-standard-anti-death.html

  • Dudley Sharp

    Jennifer:

    The Conservatives Concerned group is owned and controlled by Equal Justice USA, a well known liberal anti death penalty group, supported by ultra liberal billionaire George Soros among others.

    All CCADP does is repackage well known liberal anti death penalty nonsense in a conservative suit, all of which is easily stripped to show how wrong it is, with basic fact checking.

    Please fact check. Start here:

    Death Penalty: Justice & Saving More Innocent Lives
    http(COLON)//prodpinnc.blogspot(DOT)com/2013/05/the-death-penalty-justice-saving-more.html

  • Dudley Sharp

    Jennifer:

    If you cared about the loved ones of the innocent murder victims, you would make some effort to properly identify why the appeals process is so long.

    It cannot be the fault of the death penalty, as programs and policies do not manage themselves.

    The case managers, pre trial, trial, and within appeals are the judges, who set the time schedule.

    Responsible judges get responsible results.

    Virginia has executed 111 murderers since 1976, within 7 years of appeals, on average, prior to execution, those 111 being more than 70% of those sentenced to death.

    With responsible judges all death penalty jurisdictions could match that protocol, because if Virginia can do it, all jurisdictions can. Basic.

    Such a protocol would make the death penalty less expensive than life without parole, in all jurisdictions.

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