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  • Doug Tjapkes

Wrong prisoner or wrong dog. Which would raise the bigger fuss?

Someone on Facebook raised an interesting point the other day. It was in the comment section below an article telling of an execution somewhere in the United States. The key point in the story was that, until the moment he died, the man claimed his innocence. The writer posed a “what if?” She said, “What if it was discovered that the wrong dog had been euthanized?” Her speculation was that public reaction to the loss of an innocent pet would be far more dramatic than if a state put to death an innocent person. Matt has often theorized that fund-raising would be much more successful for us if we were trying to save puppies and kittens, rather than showing kindness to incarcerated human beings. Whether or not you favor capital punishment, the problem of killing the wrong person is very troubling and very real. In a report earlier this year, the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) said its examination of every death sentence handed down since 1973 – more than 9,600 in all – revealed that 185 death row inmates had been exonerated after being wrongfully convicted, 11 more than previously known. There have been 1,532 executions in the United States since 1976. I personally viewed one of those executions. My friend Anthony, on Death Row in Texas, maintained his innocence until the day he died in 2008. I was the last friend he saw before entering heaven’s gates. We prayed together. Now, with problems of obtaining appropriate death-dealing drugs, we’re hearing reports of states reviving old practices of frying people in electric chairs or gunning them down with firing squads. Are we making progress? The last administration thumbed its nose at death penalty opponents, shamefully arranging the unprecedented execution of 13 federal prisoners before President Trump left office. I well remember the situation in 2003 when the guilt of so many people on Illinois Death Row was questioned that then Governor George Ryan finally commuted the sentences of all 167 people in line for execution. Now that we have a new president who opposes the death penalty, I suppose we could and should press for a commutation of all prisoners on death row. But I suggest we go a step further. Let’s raise our voices in opposition to the death penalty. It’s time to encourage our President to place a moratorium on capital punishment. Now.

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