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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Nov. 20, 1998)
must be abolished
to save taxpayers’
AARON COOPER is a senior
English major and a Daily
Imagine someone, man or woman, sitting
alone in a jail cell for the rest of his or her life.
Imagine this person is on death row, awaiting an
execution date, which has just been set for a few
months from now.
He or she does not sleep more than two
hours a night, if at all, does not eat much, cannot
think of anything but the end. He or she is
trapped in a world where every passing second is
like an increasing number of stab wounds that
penetrate just deep enough to cause searing pain
but not enough to kill
imagine this person is innocent.
A dramatic example, you say? Maybe. But
the fact is that this precise scenario has happened
in the United States at least Twenty-three times
since 1900.23 “accidents” during this past cen
tury alone, and those are just the ones that have
Imagine now that this is your mother, your
cousin or your best friend.
This could even be you some day.
Never going to happen, you might say? As
long as capital punishment exists in the United
States, all the DNA experts, psychologists, wit
- nesses, lawyers and judges cannot guarantee it
will never happen again.
Is this a small price to pay for justice? Would
you like to be No. 24?
Three hundred fifty prisoners since 1900
have been found not guilty while on death row
Last year, Missouri executed Alan J.
Bannister after 14 years worth of evidence
proved that Bannister should not have been exe
cuted. The state helped convict him of first
degree murder by arguing that he had carried out
a contract killing.
The evidence backed up Bannister’s testi
mony that no such “contract” ever existed and
that Bannister had visited the victim with the
intent of intimidation. Bannister wanted to
defend himself after he was previously stabbed
and threatened by the victim’s circle of associ
Bannister’s sentence should have been
immediately reduced to life imprisonment, but
over the course of 14 years, he and his family
endured two previous execution stays before he
finally was executed in October 1997.
If those responsible for Bannister’s execution
ever realize the injustice that has taken place, I
ask only how they plan to undo the damage that
has been done to the U.S. justice system and car
ried out upon him.
This example of gross and fatal negligence
constitutes the epitome of “cruel and unusual”
Financially, capital punishment is a joke on
the American taxpayer.
“The death penalty is not now, nor has it ever
been, a more economical alternative to life
imprisonment,” said Spangenberg and Walsh in
an article from the Loyola of Los Angeles Law
A study by the New York State Defenders
Association found that, on average, the cost of a
capital trial alone is more than twice the cost of
life imprisonment in America.
Studies done concerning Florida’s employ
ment of the death penalty show that each execu
tion costs the state approximately $3.2 million,
nearly six times the cost of a sentence of life
California spenos $90 million annually
beyond ordinary costs of its justice system on
capital punishment alone, with $78 million of
that total being incurred at the trial level.
The figures go on and on, but it comes down
to the fact that the United State has spent nearly
$ 1 billion on the death penalty since just 1976.
Think of all the extra police, state, prison and
law enforcement workers who could have been
employed with that money, especially in the
states where they are needed most
Think of all the prisoners set free early
because of restricted budgets that could have
been kept in prison. In Texas, the death penalty
costs three times as much as a sentence of life
imprisonment. To top that off, prisoners in Texas
serve an average of only 20 percent of their sen
tences, and re-arrests are common.
Between 1977 and 1993, the average time an
inmate spent on death row before execution was
6.1 years. In Nebraska, it was 12.4 years. During
that time, there were 2,716 inmates under a death
sentence in the United States, and only 285 were
Capital punishment is inefficient It costs
taxpayers, the federal government and state gov
ernments often three to six times as much as sen
tences of life imprisonment While the average
inmate may serve at least six years on death row,
some have served more than 20.
If the system works well, then why are so
many prisoners kept around for so long? If they
were proved guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”
then why are they allowed so many appeals,
motions, stays of execution, and grants of
Simple. The system is faulty beyond any
stretch of statistics and the imagination. We’ve
got the blood of 23 innocent victims on our
hands to prove it.
At least one study conducted by Robert
Dann in Philadelphia (1935) has shown that the
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government in any nation can expect its citi
zens to obey its authority when it punishes those
who commit murder by carrying out the very act
its laws are meant to prevent: murder.
This will continue to be one of the strongest
arguments for the abolition of the death penalty
as long as capital punishment is naively
employed in the justice system of the United
Killing another person will not bring back
the victims of our nation’s murderers. Yet, even
through the perspective of an abolitionist, it is
hard to justify clemency in such cases as with
convicted mass murderers and serial killers such
as Timothy McVeigh and Ted Bundy, who com
mit such brutal and inhumane acts of violence
that far exceed the sole act of murder.
But keeping the death penalty around
because of a few extreme cases seems barbaric
and illogical, along with the overwhelming evi
dence that the death penalty has failed America.
Thinking of a mother who has to tell her 4
year-old son that his father was executed and that„
he was actually “innocent*’ should be enough to
open the eyes of Americans who think capital
punishment is in our nation’s best interest
That will never be true.
TASHA KUXHAUSEN is a sopho
more news-editorial major and a
Daily Nebraskan columnist
When I hear about someone torturing a child,
raping a woman or butchering a family, my
stomach chums. The way I see it, a person who
does any of these things doesn’t deserve to live.
I’m not alone in my belief. Many people are
motivated to seek the death penalty because of
revenge and strong emotions.
Some would say that taking a murderer’s life
is justified as “an eye for an eye,” quoting
Exodus 21:24 of the Bible. I’ve made it clear in
my past columns that the Bible is very contradic
tory in several ways, and this is another example.
So, although capital punishment is basically
“an eye for an eye,” the Bible passage alone can’t
be the reason for the death penalty. I choose to
favor capital punishment for many reasons.
The death penalty is a consequence for an act
that is deemed horrific in nature by the law. I feel
that any person who commits such a horrific act
as murder doesn’t deserve the precious gift of
Some argue that criminals can be rehabilitat
ed, or at least left in prison to think about then
acts. The fact is that the criminal still gets to live.
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also wrote a
book about his ordeal and tried to make a profit,
although he didn’t see any money from it in the
He was interviewed a few times and was
asked how he felt about his murderous history.
He said he didn’t regret what he’d done and, if he
had the chance, he’d do it again.
Manson has been in jail for more than 20
years, and he doesn’t show any signs of rehabili
tation. Unfortunately, California revoked the
death penalty while Manson was on death row,
and although California has since reinstated it,
he still can’t be put to death. #
John Joubert was a murderer who claimed
until his execution that he was a changed man
and had found God If I were facing death, I
would say anything to save my life. Anyone can
pretend to be sincere if he thinks that it will get
him something in return.
Another notorious example of a psychotic
killer is Ted Bundy.
He killed more than 50 women, yet he wore a
haunting grin at his trial. He also remained on
death row for 10 years.
There is the argument that executions are so
much more expensive than a criminal’s life
imprisonment, but the continuous appeal process
the best punishment
for violent murderers
in the United States
adds too much to the dollar amount
Bundy killed more than 50 innocent women
and still got to live 10 extra years and managed
to waste taxpayers’ money with court costs in the
Criminals of his nature should be executed as
soon as possible. The death penalty should be
carried out in a more timely fashion so that peo
ple will respect the laws and know that punish
ment is more than words on a page.
As for those who think that the death penalty
is inhumane, have I got news for you. What
Manson, Bundy and Joubert did was inhumane.
Why do people of this sick nature deserve
any humane treatment? Besides, criminals are
punished more humanely today than a few hun
dred years ago.
People who were caught stealing in some
countries used to have their hands cut off Others
were beheaded or tarred and feathered. Witches
were burned at the stake. Today we try so hard to
be easier on criminals.
Lethal injection is a common form of execu
tion because it is supposedly the most painless.
Why shouldn’t murderers and rapists feel pain?
They caused their victims excruciating pain, not
to mention the pain that the victims’ families will
This leads me to the ultimate reason for the
death penalty: justice for victims. The late syndi
cated newspaper columnist Mike Royko once
said, “Murder is the most terrible crime there is.
Anything less than the death penalty is an insult
to the victim and society. It says... that we don’t
value the victim’s life enough to punishThe killer —
In the case of the Oklahoma City bombing,
168 people were killed. To let Timothy McVeigh
live would be a slap in the face to most of the vic
Some of the families of the bombing victims
support the death penalty for McVeigh, while
others feel that by giving him death, he is escap
ing the punishment of incarceration forever.
Sarah Oviatt, a student here at the university,
lost her uncle in the Oklahoma City bombing.
Sbetold me that she is in favor of the death
However, she told me, “Whether he is exe
cuted or incarcerated doesn’t matter, because he
will be judged by God in the end.”
I would rather have him executed right away
and get him on his way to be judged by God. A
murderer doesn’t deserve to take the space in the
prison that another, less-dangerous criminal
As far as the government judging who will
live and who will die, some feel that the govern
ment doesn’t have that right. But where capital
punishment is legal, the government has the
right, and I believe the duty, to punish those who
purposefully kill another human being.
The government is not “playing God,” as I
have heard many say. The criminal knew the con
sequences and still id the crime. He chooses his
Once a person’s life is taken, I feel that the
criminal loses all human rights.
Now I want you to picture a child walking
home from school. When he is finally out of
sight from the school, a truck pulls up next to
The driver offers the child a ride home, men
tioning that the child’s parents sent him. The
trusting 8-year-old consents and disappears into
But the driver doesn’t take the child home.
He drives to the woods on the edge of town and
turns off the engine. He rips the clothes off the
child’s body and sodomizes him.
The child is beaten to death with a hammer
once the man is finished with the child’s com
pany. The child’s body is thrown over a bridge
into a river, and the child’s blood colors the water
Now, imagine that the child is your brother or
sister. He or she will never again get to take part
in simple pleasures of life such as breathing,
talkmg, eating and sleeping. But his killer will if
he lives in prison.
I don’t think that’s fair.
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