Let me give you some history. Wisconsin became a state in 1848.
In 1851, the state carried out its one and only execution on a man convicted for killing his wife. He was hanged in a public square.
A state legislator who was at the execution was so disgusted by the brutality of it that he stated.
"The last agony is over. The crowd have been indulged in its insane passion for the sight of a judicially murdered man. McCaffry murdered his wife without the sanction of the law, and McCaffry has been murdered according to the law. We do not complain that the law has been enforced. We complain that the law exists."
C. Latham Sholes, Wisconsin State Legislator, after witnessing the execution of
John McCaffry, The Telegraph, 8/22/1851
Sholes went on to spear head the first successful statewide death penalty abolishment movement in United States history. The death penalty was abolished in Wisconsin 1853. For 153 years, Wisconsin has been a symbol to the anti-death penalty movement nationwide as well as worldwide.
As a result though, most Wisconsinites have never been exposed to the horrors of the death penalty on a wide spread scale and many myths are floating around the state without the facts to dispell them. In my second post in a series on death penalty myths, I'm going to discuss deterrance.
Some Wisconsinites believe the death penalty deters crime. We do have crime in Wisconsin and sometimes brutal crimes, but overall we have one of the lowest crime rates per capita in the country. (see www.deathpenaltyinfo.org)
Consider the murder rate in 2005 in Wisconsin per 100,000 people was 3.2 and has averaged 3.4 over the last 10 years. We are in the bottom 20 states by murder rate nationwide.
Texas carries out the most capital punishments in the country far surpassing any other state and yet, their murder rate per 100,000 in 2005 was 6.2 and has averaged 6.4 over the last 10 years. They are in the top 15 states by murder rate.
Average of murder rates among death penalty states in 2005: 5.3
Average of murder rates among non-death penalty states in 2005: 2.8
Statistics from the Death Penalty Info Center
Many people wonder why. No one has a great answer, but I have some theories. I believe a society that sanctions murder by the state creates an atmosphere of vengence and revenge that breeds among the people.
In California some studies show that in a year when the death penalty is carried out their murder rate actually goes up. It's kind of a sick version of "what's good for the goose is good for the gander".
If the state does it, why shouldn't I?
I think another reason is that in states with the death penalty, murderers know that once they have committed one crime of passion, they are eligible for death, and so a "I have nothing to lose..." mentality kicks in. Police officers getting shot at more and once a murderer has committed one capital crime why not get everyone they are mad at since you can't kill them twice???
It's an overall mentality that is in the general population of eye for an eye and that kind of hatred, revenge and vengence is not good for a society...
So clearly the death penalty doesn't deter crime and in fact it may encourage more brutality from a criminal.
Here are some other reasons to vote no to reinstate the death penalty in Wisconsin:
- It's just morally wrong.
- Innocent people get killed by the state.
- DNA can exonerate, but it's not always correctly collected, processed, stored or analyzed and has also been deliberately misrepresented to get a conviction.
- It costs an enormous amount of money to run a death penalty system and even more to start one from scratch taking money away from solving the real reasons people commit crimes. How much do you want YOUR taxes to go up to pay for vengence???
- Lethal injection is under review as cruel and unusal punishment by several courts around the country.
- We are in starkly odd company internationally (think Saudi Arabia, China and North Korea) as a country that continues to use the death penalty. Note for all those Conservatives out there: Hugo Chavez has abolished the death penalty in Venezuala as inhumane.
- The death penalty is unfairly doled out with the vast majority of those senteneced to death being poor and/or minorities.
- And it's just morally wrong!!!!!!
Next in the series is DNA...