Executions In Christian America On The Rise Again
By James Donahue
June 27, 2006
A tie-breaking vote on
U.S. Supreme Court by Bush appointee Justice Samuel Alito has overturned a Kansas court decision that would have stopped prisoner
executions in that state.
The 5-4 ruling obviously
came as a shock to the eight inmates currently waiting on death row in Kansas
prisons. It means that state, which has not put a prisoner to death since 1965, and its Supreme Court ruled capital punishment
unconstitutional in 2004, has been forced to reconsider executing prisoners again.
The decision involved
a case against Michael Lee Marsh, convicted of a brutal stabbing and burning killing of a woman and her infant daughter in
1996. In a ruling that struck down the state’s death penalty law, the Kansas
court also invalidated Marsh’s capital murder conviction for the child’s death, saying Marsh’s attorneys
should have been allowed to present evidence that someone else was connected to the murders. The case was brought before the
Supreme Court on an appeal.
The technicalities of
the case are not our concern, however. What is chilling about the Supreme Court decision is that the high court seems to be
tipping the scales in support of more executions for capital crimes at a time when most other nations of the world are turning
away from such punishment.
There was a time, in
the years prior to 1952 that yearly executions in American prisons averaged 130 a year, and hit a high of 190 in 1938. The
number declined sharply between then and 1965, dropping that year to only seven executions, and one in 1966. There were two
in 1967, and they stopped altogether for the next 10 years as Americans went through a period of self-examination.
Those were the years
of the great hippie movement, when the youth was forcing America
to think about the environment and have a new appreciation for human life. The old Christian adage of “an eye-for-an-eye”
was set aside and we began to reason that killing someone for killing someone compounded the crime. It did not deter the act.
Thus while the capital
punishment laws remained on the books, there was an unofficial moratorium on execution that lasted exactly ten years.
Since the advent of DNA
testing we have been discovering to our horror that many people sitting on death row, awaiting execution, are being proven
innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted. As more and more of these cases come to light, there is a growing reluctance
on the part of some state governors to proceed with the death penalty.
Nevertheless, the number
of executions has been climbing with each passing year. In 2005 a total of 60 persons in 16 states were executed. The largest
number, 19, were in Texas. There were five each in Indiana,
Missouri and North Carolina, four each in Ohio, Alabama and Oklahoma, three each in Georgia and South Carolina, two in California
and one each in Connecticut, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Maryland and Mississippi.
As of April 1, 2006,
there were 3,370 people on death row in the various prisons throughout the United
States. The largest number, 652 were in California, and
404 were in Texas. Florida
came in third with 392.
We are truly a barbaric