Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Another group pulls support for US death penalty

A few weeks back, the American Law Institute quietly voted to remove a section from its "Model Penal Code" referring to the application of capital punishment. While not exactly coming out and saying it no longer supports the death penalty, it said that there are enough issues surrounding the punishment's application that it can no longer recommend a way that would ensure that legal obstacles can be overcome. In other words, the system is broken beyond repair.
The Model Penal Code, or MPC, was first drafted in the 1960s and has been regularly revised since then as an attempt by some lawyers to standardize the often contradictory criminal codes in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. It has had some success -- for instance, some of the language it recommended regarding reproductive termination protocols found its way into the laws of many states that chose to decriminalize the procedure. Though never adopted in its entirety, some of the provisions of the MPC can be found in the laws of about two-thirds of the states. Interestingly, 2/3 of the states also still have the death penalty -- although New Jersey and New Mexico have abolished in the last couple of years, Kentucky and North Carolina have moratoriums, and it appears Kansas and Colorado will also repeal their laws in the near future.
Also interesting is that support in the States for the death penalty now threatens to drop below 60% for the first time in living memory. Just two decades ago, more than 80% would have supported capital punishment -- and such a large drop in that time makes for a great deal of hope that America, despite being threatened from without and within, just might join the rest of the civilized world that has gotten rid of this barbaric form of punishment.
I've noted before the City of Rome has a long-standing tradition that, when a region or country gets rid of the death penalty -- or a person on death row gets irrevocable clemency -- the lights that shine at night on the Colosseum (once Nero's favourite place to dispose of Christians by the tens of thousands) turns from white to gold. It sure would be nice to see a lot of that gold light, if you know what I mean.

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