Russell Brunelle (russellb) wrote,
Russell Brunelle
russellb

The Issues: The Death Penalty

A higher standard of proof must be met in (non-death-penalty) criminal cases than civil cases. And most people would say this is reasonable, based on the principle that the more permanent a punishment is the more careful the court must be not to punish an innocent person: after all, if what you deprive someone of is money, the money can be returned, but if you deprive them of freedom then even freeing that innocent person later on doesn't restore the time they lost.

So, my feeling is that since an execution obviously can't be undone AT ALL, it should only be performed when there is ZERO chance the accused is innocent: in other words, the bar needs to be raised from "beyond a reasonable doubt" to "beyond any doubt whatsoever."

And, it is obvious this higher standard has traditionally not been met: large numbers of people on death row have been exonerated since the introduction of DNA testing, implying that before the introduction of DNA testing we were executing quite a few innocent people.

I think that to impose the death penalty, the state should have an uncoerced confession from the accused, or DNA evidence that cannot be explained in any other way combined with a positive witness ID. I think with anything short of this the state needs to settle for life without possibility of parole rather than execution.
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