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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Death penalty must remain alternative

Thursday, December 12, 2002

As expected, a federal appeals court has overruled a lower court and upheld the federal death penalty as constitutional. An unusual ruling earlier this year by a New York judge put the federal death penalty in question. The ruling had no impact over state death penalties.

In the earlier ruling, a federal judge said the death penalty amounted to the "state-sponsored murder of innocent human beings." That ruling came in the wake of several highly-publicized cases where murder convictions were overturned and innocent men released from prison.

The appeals court however said the lower judge had erred in his ruling and reinstated the death penalty. The case is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court though there is no guarantee the high court will step into the matter.

I doubt seriously if there will ever be agreement on the effectiveness of the death penalty. I fall into the camp who believes that the death penalty is indeed a deterrent for crime. But there are statistics and arguments that would tend to show otherwise.

Absent the death penalty - for example - convicted murderers could murder while behind bars without further penalty. And for some, as farfetched as it may be, life behind bars may actually be an improvement over their current lives. The only fear we can promise criminals is the death penalty if their actions warrant that decision.

There are flaws within the death penalty argument. But the appeals court said that the judicial system is fallible just as all aspects of life. That fallibility however should not exclude the death penalty as an ultimate punishment in our society.

Other countries criticize the American system and the death penalty. But for whatever reason - and I have my thoughts - other countries often lack the violent nature of some within our society. That leads to crime and that is why our death penalty should remain.

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