Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The death penalty should be put to death

It can’t be said that we as humans are perfect. So why do we occasionally take action that is based on being perfect?
The death penalty assumes that we have the absolutely correct answer. That we are certain about the crime, the evidence and the person who committed it. Yet, as humans, we know we can be mistaken.

It has been demonstrated many times over that our justice system is not perfect. After the trial and the appeal process ends, many groups from around the country examine the evidence, the process, the lawyers, prosecutors and witnesses only to find different results. The convicted is freed from a crime that everyone was certain he committed.

Even after evidence is found and presented that may prove the innocence of the convicted person, prosecutors continue to fight the new evidence. Sometimes technology has advanced since the crime was tried. It can then be used to demonstrate the innocence of the convicted. Sometimes it is witnesses that changed their story. Other times, it is the lawyer that was at fault.  Even here in the state of Michigan, Kym Worthy, the prosecutor of Wayne County, is asking the state courts to stop appeals after one year.

Kym Worthy is asking the courts to stop considering appeals after one year at the same time that Dwayne Provience contested his own conviction and won his freedom. He was convicted in 2001 of killing Rene Hunter on a crowded intersection in northwest Detroit. There were plenty of witnesses at the time of the shooting. One of the witnesses was even an off duty police officer. None of the witnesses were called by Provience’s lawyer, who has since been disbarred. A memo in police files that pointed to a drug gang as the likely killers wasn’t discovered until 8 years later, then only by accident.

It is likely, that if we had the death penalty in this state, Provience would have been put to death. If the evidence had surfaced after his death, what chance would we have to make restitution to this man?

A community needs certainty in its justice system. The kind of certainty that comes not from the blind belief that we are correct, which, if we know anything, we can’t always be. We need the certainty that comes from doing the very best we can to balance the need to keep our community safe by removing those that intend to do harm and rectify it if we are wrong.

The death penalty should be, well, in a phrase, put to death.

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