Death Penalty Remarks

by Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez

Studies fail to stablish that the death penalty either has a unique value as a deterrent or is a more effective deterrent than life imprisonment. We assume that perpetrators will give greater consideration to the consequences of their actions if the penalty is death, but the problem is that we are not always dealing with rational actions. Those who commit violent crimes often do so in moments of passion, rage, and fear.

The empty echo of the death penalty asks for simple retribution. Proponents advocate that some crimes simply deserve death. This argument is ludicrous. If a murder deserves death, I ask you why then we do not burn the arsonist or rape the rapist? Our justice system does not provide for such punishments because society comprehends that it must be founded on principles different from those that it condemns. How can we condemn killing while condoning execution?

In practice, capital punishment has become a kind of grotesque lottery. It cannot be disputed that most death row inmates come from poverty and that there is a definite racial and ethnic bias to the imposition of the death penalty.

Only four countries besides the United States are known to have executed juvenile offenders in the past decade: Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran.

Correct this national disgrace. Nearly all other Western democracies have abolished the death penalty without any ill effects; let us not be left behind. Let us release ourselves from the limitations of a barbaric tradition that serves only to undermine the very human rights which we seek to uphold.

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