For a dozen years, Arkansas didn’t execute any prisoners. But suddenly, because the state’s lethal drugs were about to expire, GOP leaders stampeded a plan to put eight men to death rapidly.
Public protests erupted. Church groups called executions barbaric. Courts blocked three of the proposed killings. It’s an ugly mess.
Some observers think the sordid Arkansas situation might help end the death penalty in America — as it has ended in most other advanced democracies.
A Washington Post report says Republicans who control many states are beginning to doubt that executions are worth the enormous taxpayer cost funneled into decades of court battles. An organization named Conservatives Against the Death Penalty has spread to 11 states.
“I think the inevitable is, the death penalty will, at some point, become a thing of the past,” a leader of the group declared.
Republican state senator Steve Urquhart of Utah said: “I’m thinking that it’s wrong for government to be in business in killing its own citizens.”
Republican Georgia representative Brett Harrell said: “We’ve evolved to a point in society where it’s not necessary.”
We think government executions are savage, a hallmark of dictatorships and other brutal societies. We’re proud that West Virginia ended the cruel practice a half-century ago.
Millions of Americans still hold pro-death views, but support is fading. The United States had 98 executions in 1999 — but the number fell to 20 last year (mostly in Republican-controlled Georgia and Texas).
Executions have no deterrent effect. Murders don’t surge in states that cease the death penalty. Sometimes, DNA evidence belatedly proves that suspects actually are innocent, and they’re freed from death row. A wrongly convicted person cannot be freed from prison if he has been executed.
Real murderers are loathsome, of course, but society shouldn’t sink to their level by killing in retaliation. We await the day when America no longer kills people who kill, to show that killing is wrong.