NEW VOICES: Another Conservative Leader Challenges the Death Penalty
In an op-ed in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tennessean Drew Johnson evoked conservatives' intentions to "protect innocent life, promote financial responsibility and support government programs that really work" in criticizing the death penalty. Johnson, a Senior Fellow at Taxpayers Protection Alliance and founder of the Beacon Center of Tennessee, cited the many exonerations from death row as another reason to challenge capital punishment: "Life is too precious to rely on mistake-prone processes like the death penalty." He noted that the Tennessee Comptroller's Office's found capital trials to be 48% more expensive than life-without-parole trials. Finally, relying on the conservative value of limited government, he concluded, "My view of limited government is not giving the state the power to kill American citizens. There is nothing limited about that authority....It's time that conservative Tennesseans begin to look at the death penalty to consider whether it's consistent with our view of the role of government and decide if retribution and revenge is worth sacrificing our principles, freedoms and liberties." Read the full op-ed below.
Drew Johnson: Capital punishment inconsistent with conservative views
by Drew Johnson
Conservatives from all levels of government are fighting to protect innocent life, promote financial responsibility and support government programs that really work. After all, that's what conservatism is all about. That's why conservatives such as myself, Tennessee state Rep. Steve McManus, R-Cordova, and national leaders like Brent Bozell, Jay Sekulow and Ron Paul have all begun to publicly question capital punishment.
National support for the death penalty is at an all-time low. Our neighbor to the east, North Carolina, supported repealing the death penalty by 68 percent in a recent poll.
Earlier this month, Reginald Griffin of Missouri became the 143rd person to be wrongfully convicted and released from death row since 1973. How many others were not so fortunate and were wrongly executed? We may never know, but if conservatives continue to fight for innocent life, then we shouldn't support a program that is proven to be wrong time and time again when lives hang in the balance.
Life is too precious to rely on mistake-prone processes like the death penalty.
Unfortunately, we live in an era when running annual deficits and accumulating enormous public debt is commonplace. While Tennessee is run far better than the federal government, the death penalty is still a financial drain on Volunteer State taxpayers. The state Comptroller's Office found that capital trials are 48 percent more expensive than trials with life without parole as the punishment.
That doesn't even begin to cover the decades-long appeals process, housing inmates on death row and legal fees that make the death penalty several times more expensive than comparable cases with the punishment of life without the possibility of release.
We continue to pay the tab for this program because we are told that it deters crime and protects the public, but many studies prove there is no evidence that the death penalty deters crime any better than life without parole. If it did deter crime, then shouldn't the state that uses it the most, Texas, have the lowest murder rates in the nation? It doesn't.
My view of limited government is not giving the state the power to kill American citizens. There is nothing limited about that authority.
Our government is encroaching upon every aspect of our lives and assuming all kinds of power. If the government can't figure out how to run the healthcare.gov website, then why do people think the government can operate the death penalty program?
The truth is that government is not perfect, far from it, and the death penalty runs a dangerously high probability of killing innocent people, siphons billions of dollars from the public and gives the government power it cannot be trusted to carry out fairly.
To make matters worse, the state of Tennessee has decided to make its death penalty drug confidential. The public is not allowed to know what the drug is or where it was procured. It doesn't make sense that the state government would conceal this information unless it has something to hide.
Conservatives believe in transparency in government, not secrets from the public, which this clearly is.
It's time that conservative Tennesseans begin to look at the death penalty to consider whether it's consistent with our view of the role of government and decide if retribution and revenge is worth sacrificing our principles, freedoms and liberties.
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East Tennessee resident Drew Johnson is a Senior Fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and the founder of the Beacon Center of Tennessee.
(D. Johnson, "Drew Johnson: Capital punishment inconsistent with conservative views," Knoxville News-Sentinel, December 1, 2013). See New Voices.