Death penalty has no place in liberal democracy

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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Why haven't we repealed the death penalty? After it was reinstated in Illinois in 1977, 20 human beings who were condemned to die by our judicial system were found to be innocent. We kill in the name of justice because we can.

If public safety is the prime concern, incarceration offers a nonlethal alternative that allows a revisit of cases, should questions arise at a later date. If punishment is the prime concern, our penal system is up to the task without taking lives. If restorative justice is at all a concern, then our capital punishment system fails us.

Hands off Cain is an Italian organization committed to abolition of the death penalty. They issued a report earlier this year that said there are 43 countries that still employ capital punishment. Of those, Hands off Cain calls 36 dictatorships, or authoritarian or illiberal regimes. Fifteen of those countries accounted for nearly 99 percent of the executions carried out by governments. China alone was responsible for 88 percent of the global total.

Only seven of the 43 countries that still carry out executions can be defined as liberal democracies. Of the seven, three carried out executions in 2009. The United States led the way with 52. Japan came in second with seven executions and Botswana put one person to death in 2009.

In the United States, the fight to repeal the death penalty is being carried out at the state level. A recent statewide poll showed majority support for repeal of the death penalty in Illinois. State senators Kimberly Lightford and Don Harmon and state representatives Karen Yarbrough, La Shawn Ford and Camille Lilly represent Oak Park in Springfield. All of them are working to end this costly cruelty. Now is the time.

Tom Broderick
Oak Park

Reader Comments

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Sally Forth from Oak Park  

Posted: November 21st, 2010 7:58 PM

Tom, for the record, it's my real name, and I'm a real, 40-year OP resident. As a single woman, I choose to keep my address and phone unlisted for personal reasons. My freinds know how to find me.

tom broderick from oak park  

Posted: November 20th, 2010 8:54 AM

Sheltered by a pen name, S.F. exhorts others to not be afraid to show their hands if they wish to abolish the death penalty and oppose abortion. The abolition movement is varied. It includes members of the right to life movement who want no human intervention in the destruction of life, which sometimes includes opposition to war. It includes those who feel the extreme power of the State should not be used so lethally against individuals. It also includes family members of murder victims.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: November 18th, 2010 12:33 PM

But you also beg the core question, OP. If the fetus has a moral claim to life, then the decision to terminate the fetus' life is not merely a personal or private decision.

OP Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: November 18th, 2010 11:07 AM

Reproductive rights involve personal and private decisons.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: November 18th, 2010 8:48 AM

Yours is not a frivolous question "Sally." But it begs the core question of the moral status of the fetus, i.e., is a 6-month old or younger fetus a "person" who has the same moral claim to life as a fully developed human. If not, does it nevertheless have some lesser moral claim to life that is not trumped by the interests of the mother. Until those kinds of questions are answered, your inconsistency argument will not have any traction.

Sally Forth from oak park  

Posted: November 17th, 2010 1:21 PM

OK, so there is opposition to the death penalty...a show of hands from all of you who wish to abolish it who also oppose abortion...come, don't be afraid...let's see those hands...

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: November 17th, 2010 12:08 AM

Hi Tom - I was a nine year old boy in Max's Candy Store in Brooklyn New York when I saw the headline that the Rosenberg's had been executed for treason. I can still can picture myself in that store reading the story. From that moment until this very day, I have been against the death penalty. Unfortunately there are too many people in this country that see executions as a deterrent despite the never ending increase in murders. Couldn't agree with you more. Suspect most of OP agrees too.

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