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Vote No on Proposition 34: Media and the Death Penalty

Death penalty abolitionists have powerful friends in the media and together they have concocted a PR campaign that has convinced many our death rows are filled with innocent men and women.

I am unapologetic about my support of the death penalty because I do not believe that a majority opinion or the law of the land in 33 states and the federal government requires an apology. Unfortunately, in recent years abolitionists and other death penalty apologists have been incredibly successful in subverting the law and undermining public confidence in the administration of ultimate justice.

Abolitionists have found many friends in the mainstream media. Together they have concocted a public relations campaign that has convinced many that our death rows are filled with innocent men and women who are denied due process as they are being led to the slaughter. Ever since the days of Perry Mason, television has fed the public a diet of citizens accused and convicted of capital murders that they did not commit. Currently, the plethora of CSI series would have us believe that forensic evidence miraculously and regularly exonerates innocents as they rot in prison cells.

The wrongful accusation, conviction, imprisonment, and execution of innocents is a staple of The Good Wife on CBS, which recently featured Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck and the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. The elegance of that particular case is that it is impossible to prove whether Willingham truly was innocent or was the remorseless arsonist executed in 2003 for torching his three young daughters. The point is that on these television programs, forensics are always definitive, defense lawyers are never wrong, and innocent people are convicted, imprisoned, and executed.

Of course, print media is complicit as well. Convicted killer Roger Coleman made the cover of Time magazine on May 18, 1992, with the caption, “This Man Might Be Innocent: This Man Is Due To Die.” Fourteen years after his execution, DNA evidence proved that Coleman had been guilty of murdering his sister-in-law all along.

Then again, the June 12, 2000 cover of Newsweek magazine featured death row inmate Ricky McGinn. Again, the suggestion was made that an innocent man was about to be executed. McGinn stated that DNA testing would prove that he didn’t rape and murder his 12-year-old stepdaughter. Under intense media pressure, Texas Governor George Bush ordered a 30-day reprieve. When DNA testing proved that McGinn was guilty beyond any doubt, he was finally executed.

The truth of the matter is that as of the end of 2009, 1,613,740 prisoners were under state and federal jurisdiction. However, the total number of DNA exonerations – for any type of felony – was less than 300. And, despite years of parading remorseless killers as innocent victims, it cannot be demonstrated that an innocent man has ever been executed in recent times.

The decision to end a man’s life is a serious one, and should be treated as such. Obviously, the penalty should only be enacted in cases where there is rock-solid evidence as to guilt. However, one gets the sense that some abolitionists are just waiting for the execution of an innocent man so that they may be properly indignant about it. Those of us who believe the death penalty is necessary, on the other hand, pray that an innocent is never executed, preserving our fragile system of ultimate justice to appropriately punish the ultimate crime.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Pinky August 02, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Chris your arguments are exggerated. You state that ACT would only make our prisons less safe for both other prisoners and prison officials when in fact research shows that death row inmates has shown they are no more dangerous after conviction and incarceration than other inmates infact some states have gone as far as to mainline their death row inmates since they pose no greater violence risk in prison than other inmates. Have you heard of any San Quentin prison official being killed be a death row inmate in the last 30 years? If you have I'll stand down on my comment. The California Commission found that the current system costs California $137 million per year and is increasing, while a switch to life without parole would cost less than one-tenth the cost -- $11.5 million (page 84 of the report - downloadable at: http://www.ccfaj.org/rr-dp-official.html). There some facts for you.
Gary E. Jones August 03, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Diversity n opinion is what mad this country great. Conversations like this need to happen. If we could only meet somewhere in the middle and solve some complex issue, that would make me happy.
Pinky August 03, 2012 at 06:21 PM
You are correct Gary. Very true indeed. I'm not saying that those who commit the most horrific crime without any doubts should go without punishment. They should be held accountable for sure. If that means that they spend the rest of their lives in prison so be it. If they have to work to give back to the families and victims that would be great and I welcome that. As they should. But state legalized killing would only produce more victims.
Pär Larsson August 20, 2012 at 12:29 AM
I don't mind the death penalty. By all means, kill people. I'm cool with that. But let's make sure they're guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Cameron Todd Willingham and Carlos DeLuna were not, and anyone who says they were is not reasonable or has not reviewed all the easily available open source evidence.
Adam October 24, 2012 at 09:30 PM
When the government takes away a person’s freedom it’s one thing, when the government takes away a person's life it is another. The justice system is far from perfect. I would MUCH rather error on the side of having guilty people free then innocent people in prison. We need to abolish the death penalty because it does not work. A. It does not decrease crime; it is NOT a deterrent. B. A lot of people living their lives in prison without parole want to die, so we are doing them a favor by killing them. It's a far greater punishment to lock them into a bathroom with another smelly man they don't like then putting them in a single cell and saying we are going to end it for you so don't worry. ALSO--- we already have the death penalty. ITs called Life without parole. It should be called DEATH without parole. We are sentencing them to death in prison, not life.

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