While I’m a firebreathing libertarian-conservative with a few touches of paleocon mixed in for good measure, I break with conservatives on a couple of issues.
The big one is capital punishment.
Don’t get me wrong – I support capital punishment for every reason there is…
…except one; the simple fact that people, science, procedure and law are all imperfect, and that until they are it is inevitable that we will execute an innocent person. And executing the innocent is a double crime; it kills an innocent person for a crime he didn’t commit, and it virtually ensures the guilty will go forever free.
Now, Laura Ingraham is almost right; modern science has, theoretically, made it much more difficult to execute an innocent person. But in some cases, modern, exculpatory science has gotten hindered by police and prosecutorial misconduct.
And in others – including, it seems, at least one execution that looks increasingly likely to have killed an innocent man – science looks to have evolved enough to have made a verdict look very sketchy:
[Cameron Todd] Willingham was executed for the 1991 arson murders of his three children. The Chicago Tribune investigated the case in December 2004 and found that the fire investigation was flawed, with the local investigators relying on indicators of arson that had been disproved by advances in fire science.That does not mean Willingham was innocent. But in the absence of other evidence, it shows that he was executed for a fire that might well have been accidental.
A very, very long article in New Yorker, however, makes a pretty compelling case that Willingham was innocent, and that the Texas state government, including governor Rick Perry, would rather not examine the possibility.
There are people out there who deserve to die for their crimes. But that must never trump the right of the innocent to live.
Even if the absolutely guilty pay for their crimes with the dubiously-better option of life in a Supermax with no possibility of parole – barring, of course, reversal of their convictions.
The Willingham case adds to a growing body of evidence that the only morally acceptable means of capital punishment is legally-justified self-defense.