Kagel: Death penalty 'flawed, troubling'

posted Apr 5, 2011, 7:49 AM by Kathryn Hamoudah   [ updated Aug 31, 2012, 8:29 AM by GFADP staff ]

Athens Banner-Herald

Published Tuesday, April 05, 2011

In the aftermath of the tragic killing of Athens-Clarke County police officer Buddy Christian, many will call for a death sentence for his killer. However much this may seem like justice to some, it would be a horrible mistake.

Death sentences inevitably are followed by a long series of appeals, dragged out over years, which make it difficult for the members of the victim's family to move on with their lives.

Executing criminals also does not erase their crimes. Rather, it creates a new moral dilemma by making us, as Georgia citizens, accessories to the taking of a human life.

Proceeding with a death penalty trial would furthermore make us supporters of a system that, in less clear cases of guilt, has the potential to imprison and execute the innocent. The fact that 138 people who served time on death row were later found not to be guilty of the crime for which they were convicted shows us that we embrace this risk as long as we tolerate death sentences - unlike 139 countries around the world and 16 American states.

Furthermore, the cost of a capital trial that results in execution is dramatically higher than the cost of a non-death penalty trial where a life sentence is imposed, and the additional cost drains resources from the county and state that could be better spent on victim services and crime prevention. We would honor Officer Christian and all our local police officers by bringing his murderer to justice without participating in a deeply flawed and morally troubling capital punishment system.

Laura Tate Kagel

• Laura Tate Kagel is the state death penalty abolition coordinator for Amnesty International USA, and vice chair of Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.