09 March 2011

Ash Wednesday 2011

I live near Chicago in Illinois. Among the many good and bad things we are famous for here, our recent public debate over the death penalty and the long corrupt saga of former governor Blagojevich have made world wide news. Today there is resolution on one topic and ongoing silliness on the other.

Today our new law was signed by Governor Quinn. Illinois now stands as the newest State to get out of the killing business. All of the convicted killers awaiting execution under the old law received commutations to life sentences without parole.

The State and the union arguably are improved by this. One more State has stopped. We can hope the example will have an effect.

There are rational and reasoned arguments for capital punishment. They range from the need of the State to protect its citizens, to the need for punishments to fit crimes. I understand that good people can think these arguments are compelling as I live with some proponents. None-the-less, I think the arguments against it are superior.

We do not need to kill murderers, we need to set them outside the society's benefits, protect ourselves from them and maintain the moral high ground. We can do that with life sentences and
we know from the examples of other States and other nations that this solution works when properly applied.

Meanwhile, Mr. Blagojevich keeps trying to turn the law and courts into his personal circus. The latest idea is that the US District Court should ignore the law, unilaterally drop the prosecution of the twenty outstanding felony charges pending against him and sentence him on the single felony count on which he has been convicted.

It is a neat idea from his perspective. The felony on which he is already convicted is lying to the FBI. It carries a maximum of 5 years in prison, and usually first time offenders get less. Some of the outstanding charges carry much longer potential sentences.

It is my hunch that this idea has no chance. His attorneys are claiming that they are not getting paid for preparing his defense. I suspect the courts will sort this out, he will get a defense and twelve citizens will render the verdicts. I do not know if he is guilty of all or some of the charges. He is entitled to the presumption of innocence as are all American defendants.

But this day belongs to the often (justifiably) maligned legislature and Governor Quinn. This day they have made Illinois a bit more just, a bit less vindictive and a bit more secure. This day, criminals learned the State will act with dispatch and the penalty is fixed and ready. No time on "death row" as a celebrity, no special interviews or prayers with an archbishop now, only the long years in lonely confinement waiting to die un-mourned now await our murderers.



Anonymous said...

CapitAl, not capitOl, punishment. You're not killing Springfield.

JimB said...

OOOOPs! Some days I hate my spell checker. I fixed it.


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