Thursday, March 10, 2011

Illinois: Day One after abolition of the death penalty

DuPage County State's Attorney Bob Berlin denounced Governor Pat Quinn's signing of a bill yesterday abolishing the death penalty as a "victory for murderers across Illinois."

I'm torn. As I wrote in January, when the bill abolishing the death penalty was passed by the General Assembly:
[O]ver drinks in a bar one day, a fellow lawyer made what I think is a tremendous argument against the death penalty. "Have you ever won a case you thought you thought you should have lost?" he asked. "Have you ever lost a case when you should have won?"

Well, sure, I said. Who hasn't? Juries do strange things. Courts make odd rulings. You stand up to speak -- and trip all over your tongue.

"Well, what makes you think that can't happen in a death penalty case?"
And this is the tack taken by an analysis in today's Chicago Tribune: While qualms over the morality of the death penalty motivated some opponents, the compelling argument was that too many mistakes were made in Illinois death penalty cases. Persons languished on Death Row for years (as the interminable appeal process wound and rewound through the courts) -- and sometimes wound up exonerated.

If only criminals would use such care in regards to their victims.

Supposedly we will now lock up murderers in Illinois forever. The worst of the worst, the serial killers, the cop killers, the child killers, will (allegedly) never be eligible for parole. And some of them -- like Wisconsin's infamous Jeffrey Dahmer -- will themselves be murdered while behind bars. No one will mourn.

Indeed, such karmic occasions will be an opportunity for wit and black humor... as it was when one half of the infamous child murdering team of Leopold and Loeb, Richard Loeb, was shanked in a prison shower at the Stateville Correctional Center in 1936.

Leopold and Loeb were highly educated young men. Leopold was only 19 at the time he and Loeb kidnapped and murdered Bobby Franks on May 21, 1924. Leopold was enrolled in the University of Chicago Law School at the time. Loeb, only 18, had already graduated from the University of Michigan (the youngest ever to graduate from that school) and was planning to attend the University of Chicago Law School. Thus, the twist of Ed Lahey's lede about Loeb's death in the Chicago Daily News, "Richard Loeb, despite his erudition, today ended his sentence with a proposition."

I leave you with an uncomfortable question: Now that we've abolished the death penalty for the most heinous criminals, can we do something about the death penalty imposed on too many of our society's most innocent and helpless individuals?


Dave said...

Some things are societal choices, some are reserved, for now, as individual choices. And it gives me no pleasure to type that.

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

it seems not curmy, it seems not...

smiles, bee

Atlanta Roofing said...

In recent years, it turned out, Illinois was batting .300 in death penalty cases, meaning 9 of 12 death-row inmates were cleared by DNA testing. I have no problem with a vicious killer being executed. Have a problem with a system that sucks at getting it right. And in fact, studies have shown repeatedly that the certainty of incarcerat¬ion has a stronger deterrent effect on criminals than the threat of the death penalty.