By Chris Dodson, Alligator Columnist, the independent florida alligator
An eye for an eye.
This way of thinking can be traced back to the Code of Hammurabi, a set of Babylonian law codes from about 1792 B.C. These codes stated, among other things, “If a man puts out the eye of an equal, his eye shall be put out.”
The sad thing is, nearly 4,000 years later in the U.S. we are still using a version of these codes in the form of capital punishment.
Capital punishment, more often referred to as the death penalty, is still on the books in 37 states in this country. Only two states have ruled it unconstitutional by their state Supreme Courts.
The Supreme Court of the United States has heard capital punishment arguments on multiple occasions and has ruled both ways in the past.
For those at home who don’t quite remember the Eighth Amendment, it’s that kind-of-important part of the Constitution that grants you security from cruel and unusual punishment from the government.
I find it hard to believe anyone would try to say death is not cruel.
But what about unusual? Every major superpower in Europe has eliminated the death penalty, so to these countries, I suppose capital punishment would be quite unusual.
In fact, with the exception of Latvia and Belarus, Europe is entirely capital punishment free. That even includes Russia, which currently has a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
To really drive the point home, the U.S. is one of only three industrialized democracies in the world to still have capital punishment, and one of those other two currently has a moratorium on its use as well. That seems pretty unusual to me.
We also have to deal with the possibility of an innocent person being convicted of murder and being executed. If an innocent individual is convicted but sentenced to life without parole, then there’s a possibility once the truth is discovered they can be released. But if they have already been executed, well, there’s not a whole lot one can do about it.
Don’t think that’s all that common? Since 1973 there have been 138 people released from death row after new evidence proved their innocence.These are the lucky people who had their innocence proved before their execution happened.
In this economy, we’re all looking for any way possible to save a few bucks here and there. If only the government would take that approach too. Replacing capital punishment with a sentence of life without parole would save quite a bit of money.
In a report issued from our very own UF, the average cost of an execution in Florida is $3.2 million, as opposed to the $600,000 it would cost to keep that same person in jail for life. Those are millions of dollars that could be put to good use in these downtrodden economic times.
So wait, we would be improving our country socially and economically by not killing more people? It seems way too good to be true.