Next Tuesday, voters in Wisconsin will be asked to consider a referendum on whether to reinstate the death penalty after more than 150 years without it. The referendum asks:
Should the death penalty be enacted in the state of Wisconsin for cases involving a person who is convicted of first-degree intentional homicide, if the conviction is supported by DNA evidence?
On the surface the proposition seems logical. After all isn’t DNA evidence pretty conclusive? There is not doubt that Alec Jeffries’s technique has been an invaluable forensic tool, but it should not be used to justify the retention or the reintroduction of the death Penalty.
David Couper, formerly Chief of Police for the city of Madison makes an eloquent argument for rejecting the referendum.
…I got to thinking: we have become so sophisticated we take life by a simple injection. today it has become the dominant method of executing criminals in our country since the death penalty was reinstated. Since that time, we, as a nation, have executed over 1,000 people. And the overwhelming majority, 867, were by lethal injection. While it might appear easy, "humane," "clean," or "medical," it is, nevertheless, killing another person.
At the same time, I was thankful that I worked in Wisconsin a state that did not have the death penalty. I think if that was not the case, it would have been very difficult for me to continue to work as a police officer knowing what I did about the system and how it worked. What I came to know about the system and the death penalty is this:
The death penalty is not an effective deterrent to crime. Crime has not decreased since the death penalty was re-enacted in the late 1970s.
The death penalty risks killing innocent people. When that happens, we are all responsible.
DNA evidence is not infallible. Unfortunately, poor equipment, sloppy lab work and poorly trained technicians can contaminate evidence. For example, 11 people in Oklahoma have been executed based on contaminated DNA evidence.
The death penalty is more expensive than a life sentence. Death penalty cases cost more than "life without parole" cases. A number of U.S. counties have gone bankrupt because of a single death penalty case.
The death penalty is neither fair nor just. African Americans account for more than 40 percent of the death row population, and most death row inmates are poor and uneducated and were unable to afford quality legal representation.
Our state is a great state. We have done without the death penalty for more than 150 years. We have an excellent and creative criminal justice system that can and has operated effectively without recourse to killing people. It simply makes no sense for our state to enact a death penalty. Wisconsin does not need a death penalty. Killing is wrong for a state and for a person.
Wisconsin death penalty