Editorials

EDITORIALS: Chicago Tribune Urges Governor to Sign Death Penalty Repeal Bill

A recent editorial in the Chicago Tribune urged Gov. Pat Quinn to sign the bill to end the death penalty in Illinois.  The paper noted that former Gov. Bill Richardson signed a similar bill in New Mexico, despite previously saying he supported the death penalty when he came into office.  Richardson said that his mind was changed after studying the issue and seeing “too many mistakes” and evidence that the punishment was applied disproportionately to minorities.  The Illinois bill would divert state funds used for capital punishment to a fund for murder victims’ services and law enforcement. The editorial stated: "Illinois [has] sent at least 20 innocent men to death row . . . .Taxpayers have spent more than $122 million in 10 years to send 15 new prisoners to death row, but the moratorium remains in place because the system can't be trusted."  Gov. Quinn has until March 18 to take action on the bill.  Read full editorial below.

EDITORIALS: Baltimore Sun--Death Penalty "Inherently Inhumane"

A recent editorial in the Baltimore Sun urged Gov. Martin O'Malley to work toward repealing the death penalty in Maryland. The paper suggested that changes in the composition of the state Senate might make the General Assembly more receptive to ending capital punishment.  There have also been concerns raised about lethal injections on the the state and national level.  But it was the fundamental unfairness and high costs of the death penalty that underscored the paper's position: "Countless studies have shown that the death penalty is no more effective in deterring crime than a sentence of life without parole; that it is so inherently discriminatory that it can never be fairly or consistently applied; and that the risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated, even with the stringent requirements Maryland has put in place. Moreover, the lengthy appeals it inspires deprive victims' families of closure and cost the state millions of dollars that could be better used for other purposes. As an instrument of justice, it is a moral abomination that can never be rendered humane except by ending it altogether."

EDITORIALS: National Papers Raise Concerns About Lethal Injection

Recent editorials in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times called into question the current use of lethal injection in executions, in light of the decision by the sole U.S. manufacturer of a key drug used by almost all states to stop its production.  Hospira Inc. was the only U.S. producer of sodium thiopental, the main anesthetic used in lethal injections, but the company said international concerns about the death penalty prompted its halt.  The shortage of the drug caused some states to seek it overseas.  The New York Times cited a litany of problems with the batches of the drug used in recent executions in Arizona and Georgia. "Even with judicial blessing, the conduct of executions in this country is a shambles. In Arizona and Georgia, the sodium thiopental used in executions has possibly been ineffective and almost certainly been illegal. It came from Dream Pharma, an unlicensed British supplier, run from a driving school.  The batches carried a date of 2006. They were likely made by a company in Austria that went out of business. The drug is said to be effective for only a year. As a foreign-made drug without approval by the Food and Drug Administration, it is prohibited by federal statute." In a similar editorial, the Los Angeles Times noted, "If this were just a supply problem, it might be comparatively easy to solve. But lethal injection, considered the most 'humane' way to execute criminals, comes with a host of other ethical, regulatory and legal challenges. Medical associations refuse to condone physician participation in executions, increasing the danger of botched procedures. The Food and Drug Administration wants nothing to do with lethal-injection drugs, refusing to verify the effectiveness of imports but allowing states to purchase them. Thus there is no way of knowing whether the drugs are producing the 'painless' death they promise, or a torturous death forbidden by the Constitution."  Read the full editorials below.

EDITORIALS: Major Papers Around the Country Tracked DPIC's Year End Report

The information and analysis in DPIC's recent 2010 Year-End Report were reported in hundreds of media outlets around the country.  Among the papers writing editorials on the trends cited in the report were the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Colorado's Aurora Sentinel.  The Times' editorial, "Still Cruel, Less Usual," noted, “A report released this month by the Death Penalty Information Center counted 46 executions in 2010. That is nearly 12 percent fewer than a year ago, and down sharply from the 85 executions of 2000. . . . The center suggested a number of reasons for the decline, including that prosecutors and the public are grappling with the wrenching problem of innocence. The irreversible punishment of death requires a foolproof justice system, but growing numbers of DNA exonerations in recent years suggest that it is far from that.” The Post's editorial, "46 Executions Too Many," also cited the costs of capital cases as a significant concern: "Litigating a capital case is expensive - on average $3 million, according to the [D]eath [P]enalty [Information] [C]enter - and exceeds the costs of imprisoning an inmate for decades." The Sentinel's editorial, "Time to Rid Colorado of Death Penatly," cited some of the same statistics and trends and urged the state legislature to end capital punishment: "Colorado state lawmakers will almost certainly ponder a bill next year that would end the death penalty here. Fellow legislators should give that measure serious consideration, perhaps asking voters whether to end the practice and allow the state to join the rest of the civilized world."  Read full editorials below.

EDITORIALS: New Hampshire's Concord Monitor Says "Abolish the Death Penalty"

Following the release of the report from the New Hampshire Commission to Study the Death Penalty, New Hampshire's Concord Monitor called for an end to capital punishment in the state. The Commission concluded a year of public hearings and careful study and chose by a 12-10 vote to recommend neither expanding nor abolishing the death penalty. However, the Monitor pointed out that the evidence presented to the commission was primarily in favor of repealing the death penalty. One of the many arguments against the death penalty considered by the Commission was its arbitrary nature. Outcomes of capital cases depend on the makeup of capital juries, the resources available to the defendant, and the potentially unequal skills of prosecutors and defense lawyers.  The editorial noted that former attorney general Phillip McLaughlin recalled a case in which he charged the wrong man with murder and another in which an investigator failed to share evidence that might have proved that someone else committed the crime. He voted to repeal the law.  The editorial concluded: "States are not infallible. A life wrongly taken by the state cannot be returned. But an innocent person serving life without parole can be freed. New Hampshire should join the states and the many nations that have progressed beyond capital punishment."  Read the full editorial below.

EDITORIALS: "Governor, Save Inmate's Life"

In an editorial, the Los Angeles Times has called on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California to commute Kevin Cooper's death sentence before leaving office in early January 2011.  The Times noted that considerable doubt has been cast upon the evidence used to convict Cooper of four murders that occurred in San Bernadino County in 1983. In particular, they cite the analysis offered by federal Judge William Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, who dissented from the court's refusal to review Cooper's case.  According to the editorial, "Fletcher wrote that Cooper 'is probably innocent of the crimes for which the state of California is about to execute him.'  Whether or not that's true, the judge makes a compelling argument that sheriff's office investigators planted evidence in order to convict Cooper and discarded or disregarded other evidence pointing to other killers — creating not just reasonable but serious doubt about his guilt."  The editorial concluded, "This newspaper opposes the death penalty under any circumstances, and we wouldn't object if the governor commuted the sentences of all 697 people on California's death row. But execution is especially outrageous when the prisoner may be innocent. Gov. Schwarzenegger should commute Cooper's sentence." Read the full editorial below.

EDITORIALS: New Hampshire's Concord Monitor Says "Abolish the Death Penalty"

Following the release of the report from the New Hampshire Commission to Study the Death Penalty, New Hampshire's Concord Monitor called for an end to capital punishment in the state. The Commission concluded a year of public hearings and careful study and chose by a 12-10 vote to recommend neither expanding nor abolishing the death penalty. However, the Monitor pointed out that the evidence presented to the commission was primarily in favor of repealing the death penalty. One of the many arguments against the death penalty considered by the Commission was its arbitrary nature. Outcomes of capital cases depend on the makeup of capital juries, the resources available to the defendant, and the potentially unequal skills of prosecutors and defense lawyers.  The editorial noted that former attorney general Phillip McLaughlin recalled a case in which he charged the wrong man with murder and another in which an investigator failed to share evidence that might have proved that someone else committed the crime. He voted to repeal the law.  The editorial concluded: "States are not infallible. A life wrongly taken by the state cannot be returned. But an innocent person serving life without parole can be freed. New Hampshire should join the states and the many nations that have progressed beyond capital punishment."  Read the full editorial below.

OP-ED: America's Death Penalty "Broken Beyond Repair"

An op-ed by Bob Herbert of the New York Times highlights issues raised by former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens that changed his mind on the death penalty in the U.S. Herbert cites information collected by the Death Penalty Information Center and points to shoddy defense and state misconduct in the deliberate withholding of evidence as prominent abuses in the system. “Executions have been upheld in cases in which defense lawyers slept through crucial proceedings. Alcoholic, drug-addicted and incompetent lawyers — as well as lawyers who had been suspended or otherwise disciplined for misconduct — have been assigned to indigent defendants.”  According to Herbert, “The egregious problems identified by Justice Stevens (and other prominent Americans who have changed their minds in recent years about capital punishment) have always been the case. The awful evidence has always been right there for all to see, but mostly it has been ignored. The death penalty in the United States has never been anything but an abomination — a grotesque, uncivilized, overwhelmingly racist affront to the very idea of justice.” Read full op-ed below.

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