Op-Ed: Time for Georgia to stop taking an eye for an eye

posted Sep 24, 2010, 7:01 AM by GFADP staff   [ updated Aug 31, 2012, 8:29 AM ]

Posted on Fri, Sep. 24, 2010

Macon Telegraph

Time for Georgia to stop taking an eye for an eye


Thank you for your coverage of the state of Georgia’s setting of an execution date for Brandon Rhode for Tuesday night, his suicide attempt Tuesday morning, his subsequent hospitalization, then his stay of execution until Thursday. Such horrors occurring at the Georgia Diagnostic Prison in Jackson, only a couple of exits up from Macon on I-75, indicate that the time has come for Georgia to join the ranks of the 15 states in our country and most other industrialized nations in the world that have already abolished the death penalty. The absurdity of taking Rhode to the hospital, only to cure him enough to execute him a few days later, is painful for me as a citizen, taxpayer and voter to know is an endorsed procedure by the state I call home.

One can argue against use of the death penalty solely on the basis of cost. Death penalty cases can cost up to three times as much as cases in which the prosecutor does not seek capital punishment. Simply stated, capital cases drain state resources. In Georgia, where we are already struggling to fund education and have dangerously low indigent defense funds, we simply cannot afford it.

One could also present the case that the death penalty is arbitrarily imposed in murder cases, biased by factors such as geography, race, mental capacity and class. One could point out that capital punishment disproportionately affects those defendants who live the South and who are poor. One could also bring up cases in which capital defendants were later found to be innocent, having been convicted on faulty eye witness accounts or testimonies and later exonerated by DNA evidence.

Since 1973, 139 people on Death Row have been exonerated for innocence, including five in Georgia. In regard to the argument that the death penalty deters crime, many law enforcement officials opine that the main deterrent to crime would instead be investment in drug treatment programs.

But there are two additional, overarching, and more compelling reasons that it is high time to end this practice in Georgia. Most faith traditions value the dignity of all human beings and believe in a merciful God capable of rehabilitating and forgiving even the most unthinkably horrible crimes.

Faith teaches us to turn the other cheek (even if this is very hard to do) and to forgive. Retribution for a crime by committing the same crime does not bring resolution or healing. Why do we kill people to show that killing people is wrong? Violence begets more violence.

State-sanctioned executions put all of us (the taxpayers and voters of Georgia) in the same position as Rhode. We’re all murderers after an execution. The cause of death listed on an inmate’s death certificate after an execution, after all, is “Homicide.” And all we have to show for it in the end are dead bodies. Do we want to put ourselves and our consciences in this position?

Second, there are alternatives for protecting society. Shouldn’t this be the main goal, rather than retribution? Life without parole for violent offenders protects our communities, costs less than executing them, and allows time for healing, for families of both victims and defendants.

Perhaps instead of thinking about whether or not an inmate deserves to die, or whether or not such punishment is a sufficient match for the crime committed, I would invite readers to think about whether or not each of us wants to be responsible for additional homicides when there are alternatives.

What do our faith traditions and basic human reasoning teach us to do? Ghandi once said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

The following websites are useful for further discussion and information:

gfadp.org — Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

deathpenaltyinfo.org — Death Penalty Information Center

schr.org — Southern Center for Human Rights

pfadp.org — People of Faith Against the Death Penalty

Read more: http://www.macon.com/2010/09/24/1275738/time-for-georgia-to-stop-taking.html#ixzz10SJxQBYt

Katey Brown is on the Board of GFADP and a resident of Macon