Friday, October 29, 2004

Kerry can't have it both ways on executions...

Terminator or Vaccillator?

It’s election season again and make no mistake about it, capital punishment is the law in the majority of our “united states” and it remains a punishment that the federal government reserves for certain murderers. The urge to politicize the death penalty is something that reasonable persons should resist. Sometimes we fail.

Murderers are not usually in the habit of choosing their victims by their politics. They don’t ask for voter’s registrations. There are exceptions like the men who murdered the Kennedy brothers years ago. Some try to assassinate political types to gain attention (John Hinkley). And not executing a proven predator has it’s own set of consequences that are unique in every case, just as executing murderers on occasion does. None of these exceptions or conditions (alone or combined) makes politicizing capital punishment right. A jury should decide each case, and when executions are conducted the will of the jury (at the time of sentencing) is demonstrated.

Registered voters in 2004 are faced with one candidate that has an unwavering track record of support for capital punishment and another who has voiced only a tepid support for an occasional and deserved execution. George W. Bush as governor of Texas saw many executions and saw a few more as president. 1 John Kerry on the other hand has listened to persons who would halt executions while family members of victims endure the learning curve of lawyers who want to make sure capital punishment is dealt out fairly.

Whatever your feelings about executions and the appropriateness of capital punishment happen to be, you can’t be just a little bit for it or a little bit against it. Only lawyers would come up with means to measure murder in degrees or different kinds of so called “life sentences” (murder victims aren’t dead in degrees, they either are, or they aren’t). No legislator, law enforcement officer or presidential candidate can personally guarantee that once a murder is sentenced to “life” or “life without parole” that the murderer will never cause harm to others, escape or maybe murder again. So it’s no small wonder that the candidates don’t run on a simple platform that identifies them as either “for” or “against” the death penalty and just that. This year one could say that both candidates understand that executions are the law (but only one, Bush, has had a real opportunity to demonstrate his resolve on the issue). 2

Capital punishment is no tricky issue. You demonstrate your faith in the system when you exercise the will of juries. John Kerry seems to be playing for votes by saying he supports the idea of an occasional execution but also supports a halt to executions while persons review fairness or claiming that he supports executions of terrorists (but not murderers?). 3 He can’t have “this issue both ways” like he has tried to with others. Duplicity and evasiveness shouldn’t work in our courts and semantic disguises shouldn’t work in the court of public opinion. Voters deserve to know if a candidate is really “for” or “against” capital punishment. How long will Kerry deliberate on this issue or others? Should Kerry’s resolve to do what he thinks is right (whatever his position really is), be dictated by the number of votes it might get him at the polls? I don’t think so.

1.United States Bureau of Prisons,” Executions of Federal Prisoners Since 1927” ,
2.Texas Coalition to abolish the Death Penalty, “Executions Under George W. Bush”,
3.Jeff Jacoby, ”