The Death of Capital Punishment

This week, the Governor of Washington announced that he will not enforce the State's death penalty law during his term, joining the Governors of Oregon and Colorado who had previously expressed the same policy.  Among the other States, 29 retain the capital punishment option while, in 18, it has been outlawed.  When it comes to the frequency of executions, Texas is the overwhelming champion.

Long criticized for its inhumanity, its ineffectiveness in crime prevention, its excessive cost and its uneven enforcement, the death penalty is gradually fading from American society.  Like other progressive policies, such as the abolition of slavery, the advance of civil rights and support for gay marriage, the dismantling of capital punishment will eventually be accepted by all States.  Even today, its enforcement is relatively rare (Texas excluded), with less than 2% of those on death row executed last year.

While individuals may disagree regarding the use of death to punish crime, no one can deny that our legal system is fallible and it's clear to everyone that wealthy and well-connected criminals are far less likely to face execution.  One of the great ironies of American society is that avid supporters of capital punishment tend to be conservative, religious persons who strongly oppose abortion, citing the dignity of human life.  Not long from now, we will look back on the death penalty as one of the last vestiges of our unenlightened era.