Missouri’s death penalty is a costly mistake

Reprinted with the permission of the Columbia Missourian.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:14 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The last time I wrote about the death penalty, “Guilty until proven innocent, or guilty even when innocent?,” was just more than two-years ago and then concerning executions in Texas and Georgia. Now it is executions in the Show-Me-State.

In 2011, I discussed those who have been sitting on death row and the number of people who have been exonerated with new DNA evidence. The number is becoming staggering, and I still believe that each man and woman on death row needs to have this one chance to prove innocence or guilt beyond a shadow of doubt.

Missouri’s current entry into the death penalty deals with the availability of the anesthetic propofol. It is not that the drug is not readily available. In fact, it is one of the most widely used anesthetics on the market. It is just that 85-percent of propofol is manufactured in Europe, and the European Union has this thing about executions: Just say no for moral reasons.

I have a few reasons for opposing the death penalty. The first is the legal costs of execution versus the cost of life imprisonment.

Over years of teaching, I have had many a student give the cost of execution versus life without parole (LWOP) speech, and even those who are for a sentence of death, even in limited cases, are taken aback at the cost of the legal process, most of which is borne by our tax dollars. Here is some information for you to ponder:

Colorado estimates that it would save $1 million a year by eliminating the death penalty. Kansas’ estimate is $500,000 annually.

Attorney David Dow writes that one inmate on death row in California stated “that he’d rather be executed than have his opportunities for appeal taken away.” That inmates on death row spent about 20-years before their appeals have run their course spending “twenty-three hours a day in sixty-square-foot cells with no TV, limited access to radio, books or magazines, and no contact with other human beings.” It is the same for most Life Without Parole inmates. Prison is not the country club many believe.

A 2012 editorial in the Daily Iowan noted that the death penalty “is not the most effective means of determent, and will not provide the most severe means of punishment in the eyes of the criminal.”

The California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice estimated that the state spends $137 million per year on death row inmates where they spend only $11.5 million on LWOP.

On May 27, 2013, The Kansas City Star talked about the moral implications of the execution. They wrote, “Killing people who are accused of killing people simply puts the state on the same debased moral level as the criminals.”

Those who believe that being sentenced to LWOP is more than “three hots and a cot” need to look closer at the idea of retaliation and the adage of and eye-for-an-eye mentality. I ask that the governor and those who support the death penalty ask themselves if they would rather spend the rest of their lives living 23-hours in a small cell with little, if any outside, contact or be put to death.

For those who advocate limiting the number of appeals of a death row inmate, The Innocence Project reminds us that there are those who have been wrongly accused and convicted of murder. That new science of DNA testing not available 20 or even 10 years and other “non-DNA” means have exonerated over 300 men and women since 1992, some serving up to 35 years on death row.

Personally, I believe that death relieves the convicted killer of the misery of the pain and mental anguish of LWOP. That people like Allen Nicklasson and Joseph Franklyn, the two men currently facing state sanctioned death in Missouri, would have a greater punishment of life without the possibility of release and a limited number of appeals.

Gov. Jay Nixon has long been an advocate of the death penalty and is now examining new “protocols” of delivering lethal injections or possibly the return to the gas chamber.

I urge Gov. Nixon to rethink his position on the death penalty, that in this time of budget difficulties and inadequate funding for public defenders, with an ever increasing number of men and women exonerated, with a moratorium on propofol by its major manufacturer, and stay orders of execution and convert them to LWOP.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He writes a weekly column for the Missourian.


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About David Rosman

David is the winner of the Missouri Press Foundation's "Best Columnist" in 2013 (First Place) and 2014 (Second Place), the 2016 Harold Riback Award for excellence in writing, and the winner of the 2007 Interactive Media Award for excellence in editing.
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