Iowa better off with no death penalty

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By Dave Seavy


After the recent discovery of the two bodies of the missing young Evansdale cousins, itís expected ó and even understandable ó why lawmakers and even some of the public would view the resurrection of the death penalty as a good plan. If there ever was a case justifying the death penalty, this is it.

Putting emotions and politics aside, however, common sense and pure logic tells me Iowa is much better off without such a penalty.

For openers, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, itís been shown that states with the death penalty have a higher number of murders than those without it. It isnít the deterrent we thought it to be.

Second, budgets are stretched to the outermost limits. In California, for example, the penalty cost about $140 million a year! Trying and carrying out a death penalty case is not fiscally responsible. Life-without-parole sentences, costing about $90,000 a year per inmate, require far less legal scrutiny than a capital conviction, thereby keep courts available for other matters.

Weíve also seen many people being released from death row because of exoneration after the fact. There will never be a perfect criminal justice system. Judges and juries are made of men and women, and mistakes are bound to happen. Weíre human, and as such, itís an impossible task to put all emotions aside and operate strictly with logic and common-sense.

Furthermore, we canít always count on attorneys to play it straight. This is true of defense and prosecutors. Iíve seen convictions and acquittals based on more innuendo and inference than facts and solid evidence. One need only remember the O.J. Simpson debacle. It also goes the other way ó people released shortly before their demise at the hands of a state.

There are valid arguments for the death penalty. Nobody can disagree that, once executed, that person will never again victimize someone. It goes far beyond that, however, and we should not lose sight of the idea that weíre doing exactly what we tell others we shouldnít do: Kill a human. If we make a mistake and the wrong person is executed, then what? There is no way to reconcile that on the books or in the public eye.

The state of Iowa, where I grew up, is better than the death penalty. In a land where hardworking residents enjoy beautiful scenery and good social manners are the norm, I just donít see room for capital punishment. Iowans are peaceful people by nature.

The Evansdale case is a tragedy. Hopefully those responsible will be brought to justice swiftly and then locked up for good. But donít toy with the machine of death.

Dave Seavy of Rochester, Minn., is a freelance writer and author. A Cedar Rapids native, he worked briefly for KCRG-TV9 Radio before moving to Minnesota to attend college. Comments:

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