Thomm Quackenbush, author

The Death Penalty

Tonight I watched a Dateline NBC documentary about the death penalty in America. There is no big story about this in the news right now so it isn't technically a current event but I feel this is one of those issues, like abortion or gun control that is ALWAYS relevant. Were you aware that America is the only developed nation to still have the death penalty? A very recent development in Illinois was the subject of the documentary; after college students proved that three inmates on death row in that state were innocent, an inquiry was launched and the verdict was to suspend the death penalty, pending even further investigation. There are many aspects of these dealings that concern me:

  1. College students figured out the innocence of people sentenced to die as a school project.
  2. Law enforcement was not only the last to notice that these people were innocent but took part in questionable practices that preceded the original indictments of the individuals in question.
  3. The death penalty was suspended rather than completely done away with based on these discoveries.
  4. The reason for the memoriam on the death penalty was the execution of innocent people, not the barbarianism of execution in general.

Regardless, this was a big win for all of us who have the sense to realize that killing people who kill people to prove killing people is wrong, absurd, barbaric, archaic, and a crime against nature. The further investigations have shown that slightly MORE than 50% of the inmates on death row that were investigated are INNOCENT of the crime that they had been convicted of and were facing the death penalty for. I have an idea; rather than spending millions of dollars to re-investigate thousands of cases so we can save the lives of hundreds of people, why don't we get rid of the death penalty and save thousands of lives? Is there any widely know politician that would stand up for that?

I come from a state that did not have the death penalty while I was growing up (Save for the murder of police officer, that was punishable by death. I would also like to point out that police dogs are considered police officers, so technically someone could have been executed if they killed a police dog. I am not saying this as though it were a bad thing.). I remember when I was around 8 years old, having a discussion with my mother about why we didn't have the death penalty (Yes, I know I was a very odd child, I started watching the news everyday before school instead of cartoons in first grade) because I could not comprehend why we wouldn't. I was all for capital punishment when I was 8 because, when you are a child, things are black and white, you commit a crime as bad as murder, then you should be killed, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. A few years later Gov. Pataki was elected and reinstated the death penalty in NY as one of his first acts as Governor. At that phase of my life I didn't really care about anything outside my own head and I have no recollection of my reaction to this development.

Fast forward to the Oklahoma City bombing and the subsequent trial and conviction of Timothy McVeigh: I was watching the news coverage on the day McVeigh (a horrible representation of a human being) was set to be executed, I didn't really have an opinion when I started watching the coverage that day, as to whether or not he should be put to death. Then a reporter let the viewing audience hear what McVeigh would be told right before his execution and it involved a phrase along the lines of: The people of the United States of America sentence you to death. That got my attention; I thought 'Oh hell no, don't kill him in my name! I did not get a survey in the mail asking if I wanted him dead, how dare you! I don't want ANYONE to die in MY name unless I do it my damn self and that will never happen!' And so started the career of an anti-execution advocate...

Since then, I have had some times where my morals almost failed, such as the case of the hate crime killing of Matthew Shepard. For a brief moment, I wanted those guys who killed him to fry but I stopped myself in mid-murder fantasy by realizing that life in prison was a much better punishment for these two, seeing as their virgin assholes would be in constant peril and THAT was what they killed Matthew over. Ha! Take that you homophobes (I never said I was against cruel and unusual punishment that didn't include death). And the mother of all poster boys for pro-death penalty: Osama bin Laden. For many years now I have wanted him dead. I said I put a number limit on the people you could kill and still fall under my no execution policy and that number was 2,500. Now, as years have past and I have thought about it again and again, I am still on the fence about this because I WOULD want that man killed in my name but then I think about what his death would accomplish. Sure, I might have a smile on my face for a while, but in the long run, it would only prove negative for our country. I don't want to make a Martyr. I don't want Osama killed in the electric chair or by lethal injection. If he happened to be left unattended at an NYFD function and happened to be found dead at the conclusion of said function, I don't think I would lose too much sleep over it.

Whenever I think of the death penalty I always think of the West Memphis Three case and how one of the three men in jail for a murder they obviously didn't commit is facing death. This is a case where people were convicted of a horrible crime bases solely on being different in a small town and religious discrimination. Until we can have a just and non-biased court system (which will be never), we can't risk having the death penalty.

The death penalty punishes not only the offender but the offender's whole family. Why would we do that? In most murder cases you have one grieving family who lost a loved one and now the law says we can make that two grieving families? On what level does that make any sense at all? These people did nothing wrong, in most cases, and they are being sentenced to a life of sorrow. That's just terrible. I would like to see any pro-execution advocate remain an advocate when their child is walking to the electric chair. It's all fine and dandy until it affects them directly.

But those are my personal issues. Most evil right wing conservatives claim that the point of the death penalty is to deter crime. It has never done so, doesn't now, and never will. Here are some interesting statistics for you to ponder out there in cyber land: I included a list of states, some have the death penalty and some don't. I listed the state's population in 2000 and how many murders occurred in the state that year. Then I followed with the percent of the population that was murdered. Hmmm, let's see if the states that execute people have a lower percentage of murdered citizens, shall we?

Execution

New York

Population - 18,976,457

Murders - 952

5.02%

Texas Population - 20,851,820

Murders - 1,238

5.94%

California

Population - 33,871,648

Murders - 2,079

6.14%

Florida

Population - 15,982,378

Murders - 903

5.65%

Mississippi

Population - 2,844,658

Murders - 255

8.96%

Alabama

Population - 4,447,100

Murders - 329

7.4%

Pennsylvania

Population - 12,281,054

Murders - 602

5%

No execution

Massachusetts (Remember, Boston is in Massachusetts)

Population - 6,349,097

Murders - 125

1.97%

Michigan

Population - 9,938,444

Murders - 669

6.73%

I would have included more states that don't have the death penalty but the rest are all good happy states in the middle of no where and people would have used that as the reason that they have a low percentage of murdered people. But as you can see, statistically, the death penalty has no effect on murder rates. So why do we have it in most states?

People say it's cheaper to kill a murder than to keep him or her in jail for life but I beg to differ. All the appeals that take pace in a capital punishment trial cost millions of dollars. There are fewer appeals without the death penalty (Gee I wonder why). Also, on a side note, we wouldn't have to concern ourselves so much with how much we pay in taxes to fund prisons if we stopped filling them with non-violent drug offenders who don't need to be there - just throwing out something to think about.

As I pointed out earlier, my great state of New York currently has the death penalty but we haven't executed anyone since 1977. Some other murderous states can be much more boastful of the human beings that they have snuffed out of existence:

State

People on Death Row

Executions from Jan 17, 1977 to July 15, 2004

Executions from Jan 1, 2004 - July 15, 2004

New York

4

0

0

Texas

454 (Thanks George W Bush!)

323

10

California

635

10

0

Florida

381

59

2

Mississippi

70

6

0

Alabama

171

28

0

Pennsylvania

235

3

0

What gives anyone the right to think that they can kill another person? Obviously the people on death row committed a horrible crime and did something no human has a right to do. We aren't gods, we, as humans, should not decide who has the right to live or die. The right to simply stay alive is a human right beyond all others and no one has the authority to deny that right. In closing I just wanted to give people a chance to see what some of our fellow human beings have in store for them in the coming year and add a personal touch to the cold statistics. Yes, these people who are going to be killed in my name or your name have names themselves and I think we owe it to all of them to at least glance at their names and think of them as humans for at least a moment before they are murdered. We are supposed to be better than them and have some compassion for them even though they had none for their victims, but our government doesn't.

EXECUTIONS SCHEDULED FOR 2004

AUGUST

08/01/04

KY

Benny Hodge - Stayed
08/05/04

AL

James Hubbard

08/09-13/04

NV

Terry Dennis - Volunteer
08/18/04

VA

James Hudson

08/19/04

TN

Gregory Thompson - Stayed
08/25/04

TX

Jasen Busby

08/26/04

OK

Windel Workman

08/26/04

TX

James Allridge III

08/26/04

PA

Wilfredo Ramos - Stayed
SEPTEMBER

09/21/04

TX

Andrew Flores

09/22/04

TN

Philip Workman

OCTOBER
10/05/04

TX

Edward Green

10/06/04

TX

Peter Miniel

10/20/04

TX

Ricky Morrow

10/26/04

TX

Dominique Green

NOVEMBER

11/04/04

TX

Robert Morrow

11/09/04

TX

Demarco McCullum

11/17/04

TX

Anthony Fuentes

DECEMBER

12/01/04

TX

Frances Newton - Female

Courtesy of Deathpenalty.org

The only way to teach people to not kill one another is by example.



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Works by Thomm Quackenbush

Anthologies

Find What You Love and Let It Kill You by Thomm Quackenbush
Pagan Standard Times: Essays on the Craft by Thomm Quackenbush
A Creature Was Stirring: A Twisted Christmas Anthology by Thomm Quackenbush
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