Thursday, January 7, 2010

Rossa McMahon on the Death Penalty

Rossa has an excellent post summarizing the various arguments against the death penalty at A Clatter of the Law:

  1. Executions by death penalty were possible in Ireland until 2001.
  2. The last execution carried out was in 1954.
  3. A public debate and national referendum on the death penalty was carried out within the last decade and resulted in an overwhelming majority of the Irish electorate agreeing to its abolition.
  4. Reintroducing the death penalty would require Ireland to leave both the European Union and the Council of Europe.
  5. Reintroduction of the death penalty would, instead, join us with a colourful club of nations.
I would just add two things:
1. The death penalty is costly, at least based on US evidence. From a recent CNN report: The Death Penalty Information Center study found that death penalty costs can average $10 million more per year per state than life sentences. Increased costs include higher security needs and guaranteed access to an often lengthy pardon and appellate process....A privately conducted poll of 500 police chiefs released with the report found the death penalty ranked last among their priorities for reducing violent crime. Only 1 percent found it to the best way to achieve that goal. Adding police officers ranked first....Eleven state legislatures have considered repealing the death penalty this year. New Mexico has banned it, and Maryland has narrowed the criteria under which it can be used.

2. The increased use of DNA evidence has effectively shown that even the most sophisticated criminal justice system is capable of committing serious errors. According to a Guardian report, "245 convicts have subsequently been cleared by DNA evidence across the US." Nine men on death row were cleared just last year.