US should abolish the death penalty

BEN OLSEN | Scroll Illustration

BEN OLSEN | Scroll Illustration

On May 27, the Nebraska Legislature overrode the governor’s veto in order to abolish the death penalty.

Nebraska joins 18 other states that have abolished capital punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Earlier in 2015, the use of the firing squad, in addition to the current method of lethal injection, was approved in Utah, according to the Utah State Legislature.

Instead of moving to add new forms of capital punishment, states should move to follow Nebraska’s lead in abolishing the death penalty.

To override the Republican governor’s veto, lawmakers from both political parties united in their opposition to form the needed coalition of 30.

Unique to Nebraska is the state’s single chamber of government — it has a senate but no house.

This situation has widely been condemned as a way to consolidate Republican control over the Legislature.

The fact that so many Republicans united with Democrats on this issue shows that cooperation between parties is not only possible in places that have a plurality of political views, but is possible even in places that skew heavily toward one party.

Abolishing the death penalty stands to end a tragic human rights violation.

In addition, it will curb wasteful government spending on the legal bills that can ensue from multiple appeals processes.

Since 1973, 152 people have been cleared of the charges against them while on death row, according to The Innocence Project, a website that tracks the status of DNA evidence in court cases.

Even one innocent person killed should be enough to cause serious internal reviews of the processes behind capital punishment.

In 2013, there were more than 700 inmates on death row in California, where costs per inmate per year exceed $90,000 and executions cost millions more, according to Death Penalty Focus.

Capital punishment is not simply a political issue, but a human tragedy.

Potential 2016 presidential nominees from both parties have spoken out about the need for reform in criminal justice in the United States.

Currently before the Supreme Court is a case, Glossip v. Gloss, about the current combination of drugs used in lethal injections, which contributed to a botched execution in Oklahoma.

This challenge has the potential to de facto end the death penalty in states where lethal injection is the only approved method.

The case shows that the drugs used cause pain and suffering in inmates and, in several cases, have failed to act for lengthy periods of time, constituting cruel and unusual punishment.

We should strive to hold politicians accountable for their views on capital punishment and not support alternatives to lethal injection should the courts rule it unconstitutional.

There is a unique opportunity to see the majority of states death-penalty-free, and we should voice our support for politicians who understand that one murder does not justify another.

Approved by an 18-0 vote of the Scroll editorial board.

Copyright 2015 BYU-I Scroll