Tag Archives: innocence

Nicholas Kristoff on the death penalty

Nicholas Kristoff has published an opinion piece in the New York Times on the death penalty: When We Kill.

He looks and reasons in favor of the death penalty and counters them, often relying on studies and specific cases. Read the whole article, but here is Kristoff’s summation:

There is no evidence that the death penalty deters. It costs hundreds of thousands of additional dollars per prisoner. It is steeped in caprice, arbitrariness and racial bias. It is fallible — and when it fails, it undermines the legitimacy of our judicial system.

Kristoff also notes that:

One peer-reviewed study suggested that at least 4.1 percent of those sentenced to death in the United States are innocent. With more than 2,700 Americans on death row, that would imply that more than 110 innocent people are awaiting execution.

Wouldn’t killing one innocent person be one too many?

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Filed under Current Events, Death Penalty, Human Rights

Protesting at the margins

I grieve for Alyssa Maria Vasquez. I grieve for her mother, Diana Berlanga. I grieve for all who mourn for Alyssa. At age seven, in 1999, she was raped and strangled. The crime fills me with revulsion. Children are gifts entrusted to us from God to be cared for well. Such a violation is utterly appalling. Utterly appalling.

Guadalupe Esparza was convicted of this atrocity. According to reports on mysanantonio.com, DNA results indicate his guilt. They further report that a recent DNA test confirmed the earlier test. The State of Texas has scheduled Esparaza’s execution for tomorrow.

I have no sympathy for Esparza. I find it hard even to acknowledge that I grieve for him.

And yet – and yet – I believe the death penalty is wrong. It dehumanizes our society. Repaying violence with violence does not get us anywhere; killing to demonstrate that killing is wrong makes no sense to me. It cuts off any possibility for reform or restoration.

My opposition is to the state killing. It does not depend – it cannot depend on the individual subject to execution. It is at the margins that we are tested.It is at the margins we must protest.

I cannot affirm that “I am Troy Davis” unless I am willing to affirm that “I am Guadalupe Esparza” as much as I recoil from that idea. I cannot protest high-profile cases involving individuals with redeeming qualities and questions of innocence unless I am willing to protest cases involving unsympathetic individuals and little doubt of guilt.

So I have written to Governor Parry and to the Texas Board of Paroles.

This would mark the 42nd execution this year and the 7th since the execution of Troy Davis.

See you along the Trail.



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Filed under Human Rights