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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Capital punishment remains a deterrent

Sunday, November 27, 2005

There will never be universal agreement on the death penalty in the United States. In fact, the emergence of DNA technology has increased the debate since a handful of death row inmates have been proven innocent. Although a substantial majority of Americans continue to favor capital punishment, the support is less than it was a decade ago.

But here's the statistic that keeps coming around and the one that I will always remember in my support of the death penalty. Since 1999, 100,000 murders have been committed in the United States. In my mind, the only way to address those crimes is to implement the death penalty.

If all goes according to schedule, the 1,000th execution will be conducted in the United States this week since capital punishment was restored in 1976. That distinction - unless there is a last-minute reprieve - belongs to a Virginia man who killed a man with a pair of scissors during a pool hall robbery.

There remain 3,400 prisoners on death row in the United States. With federal appeals, the process from conviction to execution in this country is over 15 years. There is a movement under way to reduce that appeals process and reduce the waiting time to execution. That reduction is long overdue.

There is an argument that the death penalty is more applied to blacks than whites. And though nearly twice as many whites as blacks are executed, the numbers do support the debate because from a percentage standpoint, blacks are more likely to face execution since they comprise just 12 percent of the total population yet comprise nearly a third of the executions. But violence, especially murder, is also proportionately greater in minority communities so the racial argument falls flat.

There are two facts surrounding the debate over capital punishment and your views on the issue are probably founded on which fact you think is more important. First, it is extremely likely that in some isolated instances, an innocent man was probably executed. Second, the death penalty is unquestionably a deterrent against crime. So depending on which argument you support, your views on capital punishment will likely follow.

I will continue to favor capital punishment in this nation because I firmly believe it is a deterrent to violent crimes. Perhaps the system is not without faults. It does have faults. But the overriding factor in my continued support remains the deterrent argument. On that I will remain adamant.

There will be no celebration this week when that 1,000th execution happens. And there should not. It will be a sad day and the end of a chapter in a series of sad events. And it will surely fuel the debate over capital punishment once again. But keep in mind the 100,000 murder victims in the past six years. They deserve something from society for having their lives ended at the hands of another. It may not be the best answer but capital punishment is society's way of righting that wrong.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen