Wednesday, September 24, 2008

His "X" on "No"

I’ve been known to break a promise now and then.
But here is one I have kept.
Remember back when I was on my summer vacation and I mentioned the “death penalty” issue? [ HERE].
Well, at that time, I made a promise to myself that I would look further into the issue. And I did.
Tonight I just finished reading Scott Turow’s excellent book, Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer’s Reflections on Dealing With The Death Penalty.

Excellent, excellent book. Essential, even.
Everyone should read it.
See, because my own views on the topic were very… elementary.
And the topic itself is anything but elementary. The issue of capital punishment is not easily dealt with, it is not rudimentary. It is very intricate. It’s convoluted.
It’s a matter of life. And death.
It is ignorance to say, “I believe in it” or “I don’t believe in it” without examining what is involved in choosing either decision.
And here are 125 pages that are a great introduction into the matter.

Turow, a respected criminal lawyer [and bestselling author of crime-novels] was one of fourteen experts Governor George Ryan of Illinois appointed to serve on his Commission on Capital Punishment. While in office as governor, Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in the state. In March of the year 2000, realizing that abolition was not a current valid option, Ryan posed the following question to the Committee:
What reforms, if any, would make application of the death penalty in Illinois fair, just, and accurate?
How’s that for a homework assignment, huh kids?

For 24 months this Committee researched and deliberated, utilizing their combined years of experience and expertise to finally offer [in April of 2002] an impressive list of proposals for reform of the current system as applied to the state of Illinois.
Reading this book, one gets a sense of the arduous journey that is necessary in coming to any sort of reasonable expression of how we may humanly [not to mention, humanely] accomplish the inexpressible… the legalization of the taking of life.
All of that journey, not just a portion of it, is uphill.
And all of it is never-ending.

Turow [convincingly, in my opinion] argues that capital punishment and the promise of due process of law are incompatible, and concludes by saying that if he were asked on a ballot whether Illinois should retain capital punishment, would put his “X” on “No.”
Read this book, and then sincerely ask yourself if you would not do likewise.
All I know is that it has profoundly altered the way I have formerly thought about this impossible-to-exaggerate dilemma of our time.


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