One of the sad facts about today’s media is that the hosts of several satirical “news” comedies are better journalists than the news readers on the so-called news networks. They are often more factual and probe more deeply into stories than many of those who pretend to be journalists. Moreover, they are even willing to take the few minutes needed to check their sources…something that many journalists don’t. That’s why so many news stories are superficial, sensational and hopelessly biased, such as Lara Logan’s infamous 60 Minutes Benghazi fiction.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that comedian John Oliver added some much needed perspective to the GOP claims of widespread in-person voter fraud and to the subject of capital punishment. On his HBO show called Last Week Tonight, Oliver noted that modern DNA testing has proven that approximately 4 percent of those prisoners awaiting execution on death row are innocent. But there were just 4 confirmed cases of in-person voter fraud over the past decade. That computes to something like 0.00000001 percent of all the votes cast!
Yet GOP conservatives have rushed to pass voter ID bills that will impose hardships on many voters, including college students, the elderly and minorities. At the same time, they literally applaud attempts by red state governors to speed up executions by reducing the number of appeals, even when there is reasonable cause to presume innocence.
Such are the values of today’s GOP. The fear of a token number of fraudulent votes trumps the fear of wrongly executing innocent people!
One suspects that conservatives might feel differently if they, or one of their family members, were wrongly convicted and sitting in isolation on death row. And since you are known by the company you keep, one imagines that conservatives might be embarrassed to learn that, when it comes to capital punishment, the US stands alongside Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and China. Together these nations conduct the vast majority of the world’s executions. Most of the rest of the world is horrified by our insistence on venegence. Indeed, that’s why the states determined to continue executions are struggling to find the necessary drugs…European pharmaceutical companies refuse to sell them to the US.
One cannot even justify capital punishment based on monetary savings. Despite claims to the contrary, the cumulative cost of court appeals, death row confinement and execution is 10 times more expensive than the cost of imprisoning a convicted murderer for the rest of his or her life. Further, there is a great moral cost for a society that is willing to exact venegence through capital punishment…especially when some of those executed are innocent. A single execution of an innocent person makes everyone who favors government-sanctioned murder a killer. There simply can be no denial of that fact.
Of course, we all might rest a bit easier if we could be certain of each and every verdict. But our justice system has proven to be all too fallible. According to the National Academy of Sciences, there have been 312 DNA exonerations since we have been doing advanced forensic testing. That’s 312 people who went through the horror of being convicted of a crime they didn’t commit; who were subjected to solitary confinement – often for many years – before being proven innocent.
Yet they were the lucky ones!
Those who were executed before modern DNA techniques or, in some cases, despite of them, lost their lives based on a mistake. In the immortal words of the nation’s most prolific executioner and amateur debater, Texas Governor Rick Perry…”Oops!”