Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Execute This

I was thrilled when I heard that the legislature voted to abolish the death penalty in Connecticut. I have a unique perspective on this whole “kill-the-killers” mentality.

I watched the state do it.

A little more than four years ago I was one of five reporters selected by my peers to cover the first execution in New England in 45 years.

Ivy-league educated serial rapist and murderer Michael Ross had spent 20 years on death row, first fighting not to be executed and later to be executed.

You see, he had figured out what many of us had kind of thought all along: life in prison is much worse than death.

[...]If you talk to family members or friends of those he killed, they almost all tell you that the death of Michael Ross did not bring the often-talked about “closure.”

In fact the decades of hearings and more hearings and motions from both sides gnawed away at the families of the victims. Almost without exception they will tell you that every return to court was no different from ripping the scab off of a healing wound — and then pouring salt on it.

I have sympathy for those who survive and who must deal with the loss every day. I can only hope that some day, somehow they find closure.

I have significantly less understanding for the politicians who continue to support the death penalty.

They know the death penalty serves no purpose. It provides no closure and no deterrence. The possible future imposition of the death penalty has never deterred a murder.

Death penalty proponents need to admit to themselves that they want revenge. The death penalty never has been and never will be about justice.

Justice is locking someone up in a 10 foot by 14 foot cell for decades with no way out.

Revenge is wanting the convicted killer put to death. It is the easy way out. For everyone.

And the other problem is that politicians and prosecutors don’t have to actually perform executions. They can sit at home secure in the knowledge that they do not have to be actively involved.

But we can fix that. We could make this very personal for those who are responsible for continuing to legislate for the death penalty.

We could require the governor be in the death chamber, look into the eyes of the person the state is about execute in all of our names. Bring along the AG, the prosecutor and all of the legislators who support the death penalty.

Make them active participants in the execution. Make them stand there and watch.

It is easy to take a life from a distance. I suspect it is a lot harder when death is up close and personal and it is the way it should be when the state takes a life.
(Taken from an article in the New Haven Independent by Steve Kalb)

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