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The Death Penalty: Is our justice system too corrupt to be trusted with it?
June 19, 2009
Argument against the death penalty.
Vic Biorseth, Friday, June 19, 2009
The death penalty for heinous crimes is something I have strenuously argued for in the past. But no more. Not after the Central Park Jogger case. That was the one that tipped it for me, and the discovery of so many other “clearly guilty” parties that turned out to be innocent of very serious charges. More about that later. It used to really bother me that parole boards could “undo justice”, in my opinion, and turn a multiple-convicted felonious sociopath loose on the public, based on “good behavior” or how nice he talked to the board, or how he “cleaned up his act” and was now rehabilitated. And then, once loose, he would commit another similar crime, and the process would begin all over again. And again.
Here’s what the Church teaches about the use of potentially lethal force in defense of life, and about the legitimate civil authority to make use of the death penalty.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
Even after reading Evangelim Vitae, and even after listening to John Paul the Great discussing this topic, I still felt that he did not fully understand the situation in America. Yes, it is possible to lock a serial killer away forever and keep him away from future victims, including those in prison with him. However, we all have seen how often that is simply not done here. In America, there is such a thing as a three or even more time offender for such serious crimes as kidnapping, rape, torture, murder, even first degree murder. I seriously doubt that that situation exists anywhere else to the degree that it exists here in America. We seem to have gone way too far in looking after the convicted criminal’s rights. I’m not denying that they have rights, but stating that there are limits to everyone’s rights, and no convicted murder should be granted more rights than those he denied his victim(s).
But then, the Central Park Jogger case happened. You may remember it; a lone woman was jogging in Central Park, New York City, and she was brutally attacked, beaten half to death, raped and left for dead. She was beaten so severely that her skull was broken, and she very nearly died. In fact, for some time, it was fully expected that she would die. It appeared that her assailant had fully intended that she die. By some miraculous intervention, she was eventually able to make a near full recovery, with health and well being restored, but not her memory of the event. Maybe it’s better that she doesn’t remember that.
Five black boys were arrested in short order for the offense, and they were tried for it. I readily admit that I had some very dark thoughts about them, and mercy was not among them. They all confessed to the crime. They were all convicted. If I had been on that jury, I would have fought hard for the death penalty for all of those boys. If I had been the judge, I would have had difficulty asking God to have mercy on their souls. The crime was so heinous as to be enraging. This was a crime that cried out to Heaven for vengeance.
But, they just went to prison, as is usual, it always seemed to me. Some years later, another common criminal confessed to the crime, saying that he had acted alone. And then, the whole case began to unravel, and to reveal a justice system of corruption and lies, and, over a period of time, with other similar cases coming to light, it turned me completely around on the issue. Those five black boys didn’t do it.
The first thing revealed was that the newest confessor to the crime submitted a DNA sample, and it matched the DNA found on the victim. Huh? There was DNA evidence found? And it didn’t match any of the five boys? And the court knew it? Why didn’t I know that? Why didn’t the public know it? Why didn’t the jury know it? Did the Judge know it?
Most important of all, why did these five young men confess to something they didn’t even do? They had all confessed. They wrote out and signed confessions. Can we ever depend on a signed confession in a court of law again? What came to light is that cops have ways of tricking people into confessions, particularly young people. Not only that, but defense attorneys will often recommend to their innocent client that they should sign a confession as part of a plea bargain. Hey, man, I know you didn’t do it, but they’ve got so much evidence against you that a confession is your best shot at a lighter sentence; it’s the best you can do under the circumstances, so take what you can get while you can get it.
It turned out that the five black boys were among a larger group who were doing something they all periodically did, which was called “wilding,” in which they mobbed-up and assaulted people, particularly white people, just to beat them up for being white. It might be a sort of poetic justice that they got the crap scared out of them and spent some time behind bars over this, but, the bottom line is, they never even laid eyes on the lady who was nearly killed. That’s what they were tried, convicted and sentenced for. And they didn’t even do it.
Evidence was withheld. Confessions were falsely obtained. In all probability, these five kids were probably the only ones of the “wilders” that the cops could catch, and they just stuck them with the rap for something completely unrelated.
My faith in the New York police is about gone. My faith in the whole justice system as applied in New York City is about gone. I wonder about it elsewhere in America. With the advances in DNA technology, periodically we see these cases where people, some on death row somewhere, are granted freedom because the DNA now proves that someone else did the crime they were convicted of. Not just a few times. For awhile, it was nearly a daily event. In some cases, even eye witness testimony was refuted by the new DNA evidence.
There was even one case in recent memory of a forensic scientist faking DNA test results to convict suspects that some police friends were “certain” was guilty. You can’t even trust the pathologists or the laboratories involved.
Can any part of the investigative process, let alone the litigation, be trusted any more? If a cop can “plant” evidence at a crime scene – anything from a gun to some item with the suspect’s finger prints on it – then a cop can even plant DNA evidence at a crime scene, or tamper with it later. If a cop or a DA can trick someone into a confession, and if a defense attorney can convince an innocent man that a confession is in his own best interest, then what the hell happened to the search for truth? All my life I’ve heard the old saw that says that every single person in prison claims that he is innocent of what he was convicted of.
Could it be true?
I’m sorry, but, “beyond a reasonable doubt” is no longer good enough for me in any capital offense. I would have to know with absolute certainty that the accused was guilty, or I could not vote for conviction so long as the possibility of a death penalty was present. There could not be the slightest shadow of a doubt before I could vote guilty.
Pray for the restoration of honor and integrity in America.
Pray for truth and justice.
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