A Letter to the Editor in the 10/31/06 Tomahawk Leader
To the Editor:
On Nov. 7 you will be asked to vote on the issue of reinstating the death penalty for Wisconsin. Wisconsin did at one time have the death penalty but decided 153 years ago that it was too barbaric for an enlightened state. This year’s ballot will ask you to reconsider that decision and adds the tools of DNA evidence to support the amendment.
Many heinous crimes which result in the murder of a victim or victims occur regularly, even in those states that currently exercise the death penalty. Suffering execution at the hands of the state did not appear to be on the minds of recent murderers and certainly did not prove to be a deterrent to their crimes. Serial killers or mass murders are not swayed from their crimes by the prospect of their own execution.
If the case is that those who knowingly murder should suffer the same end result, then why is the penalty not evenly applied? Are politicians or corporate CEOs whose decisions result in death to numerous individuals subject to the same punishment? The answer is no. In fact, if one examines just who lands up being executed the evidence points to poor, non-white populations who have less-than-competent or non-existent legal representation. If the justice system were foolproof then maybe one could say what difference does it make? Good or bad defense, they deserved to die. But the system is not perfect. Errors are made. Physical evidence is lost of adulterated – DNA evidence is not immune. Even politics enters into the mix. Witnesses lie for many reasons or are simply mistaken. Many convicted of murder were ultimately released after proven innocent, thankfully before they were scheduled to die. And now there are questions if some who have already been executed may have been innocent. Admissions of guilt have come after some state executions.
Will the state gain safety or achieve justice by instituting the death penalty? We will accomplish neither. We will simply join the ranks of murders. Life without parole will not bring back the deceased, but it is hard punishment. If the argument is that the current prison system is broken and doesn’t even provide rehabilitation for lesser crimes, then perhaps we are looking at the wrong end of the process and need to start at the beginning. But murdering more people in the name of justice is certainly not the answer.
Diana C. Smith