The conservative case against the death penalty

Posted at 4:39 PM, Oct 13, 2015

Marc Hyden is the advocacy coordinator with Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty. On Thursday, Oct. 14, he will address an organizational meeting of the Northern Kentucky Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. The meeting is at 7 pm at Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills.

Earlier this year, the nation watched as Nebraska, one of the most conservative states in America, voted overwhelmingly to repeal the death penalty. Similar movements have been stirring in other states as well. Ohio State Rep. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg), Kentucky State Rep. David Floyd (R-Bardstown), and many other conservatives have sponsored legislation to end capital punishment and replace it with life in prison without parole. As conservatives increasingly learn how the death penalty is inconsistent with our values, capital punishment’s days are numbered.

Marc Hyden

Most of all, conservatives such as myself, are proud of the value that we place on life. But the death penalty disregards its importance and risks innocent lives. Nationally, more than 150 people have been wrongly sentenced to die and eventually released from death row. Ohio and Kentucky combined are responsible for 10 of these erroneous convictions.

Many others have been executed despite serious doubts regarding their guilt – an abuse of government power that should horrify conservatives. It has taken more than 30 years for many of these individuals to prove that they were wrongly condemned, while others were never given a viable opportunity to do so. Eyewitness misidentification, faulty and forged forensic evidence, prosecutorial misconduct, and the imperfect nature of humans ensures that innocent Americans will continue to be wrongly convicted and perhaps executed so long as the death penalty is on the books.

The Cost of the Death Penalty

The inherent risk to innocent life isn’t the death penalty’s only cost. It is widely understood that capital punishment is far more costly than life-without-parole, and it has even led to tax increases, which is a cardinal conservative sin. It was estimated that Kentucky has spent approximately $100 million on its death penalty system, and executed three people. Other states have found capital punishment to be even more costly than this due to the lengthy initial trials, complex appeals process, and higher security on death row. It is so expensive that counties including Jasper County, Texas, Lincoln County, Ga., and others raised their taxes just to have opportunities to attempt to execute someone.

Given all the money that governments spend on the death penalty, does it provide any societal benefit? Studies have shown that it fails to keep Americans safe, and even more damning is the fact that when states including New York and New Jersey repealed the death penalty, their murder rates dropped. There’s simply no discernable causal relationship between executions and murder rates.

Capital Punishment Isn't Swift or Sure

The capital punishment system can even harm the ones who most deserve justice – murder victims’ families. In capital cases, they are forced to endure a complicated process of trials, appeals, and constant media attention. They deserve swift and sure justice, but capital punishment’s procedures prevent this from occurring.

Today’s death penalty is not necessary nor is it useful. Other viable options are available to protect society from dangerous individuals, and these alternatives avoid many of the pitfalls that plague the death penalty.

As we are confronted with the government’s numerous egregious errors, we need to ask ourselves, do we really trust our error-prone government to administer the death penalty equitably, efficiently, and without mistakes? The government’s track record indicates that no, we shouldn’t entrust it with this kind of power. That’s why conservatives from across the country are abandoning capital punishment and why Northern Kentuckians have formed their own Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty group.