Holidays or not, the tough issues stay with us. “At what should be festive time of year, I consider it abominable that the governor would repeal the death penalty for cold-blooded killers”, lamented NJ Assembly Minority Leader Alex De Croce, R-Morris. Perhaps the families who have someone on death row would consider the timing apropos. Other than these families, I too think that the timing is off which is why I could not just shake it off as I wrapped gifts most of the afternoon. The death penalty is a grim subject to grapple with and there is something to the point made by some state legislators and citizens. Some say this issue should have been debated not wrested from the public and shoved through with the speed of an Amtrak en-route to Florida.
Has New Jersey moved in the right direction here by abolishing the death penalty? There are good arguments on either side. On the one hand in support of the death penalty, by our very human nature we yearn for justice. This is a thirst that must be quenched for those who have suffered, had their hearts ripped asunder by the rape or murder of a loved one. Such victims will never be the same. The price they pay is too high for those of us who have never suffered such a loss to understand. People today seem to murder with such abandon, gang initiations, for instance. The growth of gangs even in our quiet hamlet of Flemington should be real a concern. Folk like us nationwide are becoming their new targets. I am a woman and mother of two, twenty- something daughters. I want those predators who pick off women gone forever so my daughters and I are safer. Punishment is a legitimate function of the state in meeting its primary obligation to ensure law and order and our safety. Keeping prisoners alive for decades costs thousands that we should put toward education and crime prevention. Have you seen these National Geographic prison specials like Pelican Bay. Prisoners are subject to rapes and beatings. Life imprisonment under these conditions is more inhumane than death. And on and on we go, justifying state sanctioned death.
On the other hand, life is getting cheaper here in America. Abolishing the death penalty seems to enhance the value of any and all life. This is something I support, enhancing the value of all life. Were I summoned to jury duty on a capital murder case and asked if I could recommend the death penalty upon conviction during jury selection, I don t believe I could. Can I support the death penalty but not have the courage of my convictions if it comes to enacting it? Is it all right to say--- yes, I support it but it is someone else’s job to carry it out? For me, I don’t think so. It is important to stand by one’s convictions. Finally, like many I have deep faith and take strongly the directives of the Father Almighty…”Thou shalt not kill.” Carrying out the death penalty is not an act of direct self- defense like killing an armed intruder who enters our homes, for example.
The governor argues that mandatory life in prison with no right to appeal is more moral than the death penalty. After all he says, life imprisonment is far better, making sure we are not executing someone who is not guilty. True. But what if you have an innocent person in prison for life, with no chance of appeal or parole. How is this any more moral? For all practical purposes this innocent person’s life is over too. Is life imprisonment really a life or just a prolonged death? For some prisoners both options, execution and life imprisonment, are a version of death. Perhaps the prisoner himself should be given the final choice, life or death. Maybe that is the most moral choice we can hope to attain.
What say you here in Flemington?