No death penalty reinstatement, no loophole

March 30, 2017

Is a cop's life worth more than a firefighter's? Is it worth more than a nurse's? Than a little kid's? Than a young mother's? Than somebody's grandmother's? Than a homeless person's?

The answer is no, absolutely not. So, when it comes to deciding whether or not to reinstate the death penalty in Delaware, why in the world would Gov. John Carney say, "I wouldn't rule out ... supporting a death penalty that applied only to those convicted of killing a member of law enforcement"?

I find the contention that there ought to be heavier penalties for killing police and correctional officers, as opposed to anyone else, morally repugnant. It was morally repugnant when Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf proposed it years ago, and it remains so today.

Some see this loophole as an acceptable compromise, but it would simply lead to a slippery slope toward full reinstatement. With the death apparatus left in place, it would be easy to expand the law enforcement loophole to include other sympathetic groups of people.

Why not execute those who kill firefighters, or small children, or young mothers, or senior citizens? You can see where this line of thinking leads.

Let me be clear. Blue lives absolutely matter. They just don't matter more than the lives of any other human being.

Why would Gov. Carney fall prey to such a problematic way of thinking? Well, in his statement, he says "in some cases - specifically behind prison walls - capital punishment may be our only deterrent to murder." But we know that is simply not true. Study after study demonstrates that the death penalty is not a deterrent. In addition, law enforcement officers are more likely to be murdered in states that allow the death penalty.

Attempts to reinstate the death penalty in Delaware need to be stopped. Contrary to popular rhetoric, in Delaware the death penalty is not reserved for the worst of the worst. In fact, you can get a death sentence just for driving the getaway car. In addition, capital punishment is racist in application. It's economically wasteful. And because irreversible, it does not allow for correction when errors are made, which they often are.

I sincerely hope that Gov. Carney, as a practicing Catholic, will rethink his hopefully hasty statement about a law enforcement loophole, and vow to veto any bill reinstating the death penalty that comes across his desk. He should also do that as a Democrat, because the party opposes capital punishment.

Opposition to the death penalty is one of the most pressing moral issues of our time, and as Democrats we should not tolerate leaders who condone state-sanctioned murder. This was a key issue in the recent primary race in the 14th RD, and it was an issue in the battle for Sussex County chair.

While death penalty opponents did not win in November, we did win last night with the election of Jane Hovington, a woman who takes criminal justice reform seriously and firmly opposes the death penalty. Let's let John Carney know that he must veto legislation that reinstates the death penalty in any form.

Claire Snyder-Hall
former Common Cause Delaware director

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