There’s been quite a bit of federal death penalty news over the past week, with the most recent headlines involving the execution of Lisa Montgomery early yesterday morning. Two other killers, Corey Johnson and Dustin Higgs, had their scheduled executions delayed by a federal judge, but they may still meet their makers after the Supreme Court hears the appeals. But even if that happens, they may be the last ones for a very long time. Liberal opponents to capital punishment are already putting the pressure on Joe Biden to make good on his campaign promise to end the death penalty at the federal level and new legislation is already being crafted to do just that. (Free Beacon)
More than 70 House and Senate Democrats announced Tuesday that they will reintroduce a bill ending the federal death penalty, enacting one of President-elect Joe Biden’s campaign promises.
Spearheaded by incoming Senate majority whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) and democratic socialist congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), the bill would prohibit a sentence of death for any federal offender and require the resentencing of the 55 individuals currently on federal death row…
“There are three lives that hang in the balance this week alone,” Pressley told NPR. “And this is why we reintroduced this bill this week and are urging Congress to act immediately to pass it. State-sanctioned murder is not justice.”
Congresswoman Pressley obviously has a bit of trouble with the definition of “murder.” The state executing someone convicted of the most heinous crimes imaginable is not murder, just as soldiers killing the enemy on the battlefield is not. But rather than quibbling over semantics, we should look at the ramifications of this decision should the Democrats prove successful.
There are currently 55 federal prisoners on death row, though that number may drop to 53 in the coming days. If the federal government entirely bans the death penalty in federal courts, the result will be the same as was seen in California in April of 1972. All of them will automatically have their sentences commuted to life without the possibility of parole.
In the case of California, that 1972 decision by the state supreme court spared the lives of 105 death row inmates. Among them were Sirhan Sirhan (who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy) and Charles Manson. Just let that sink in for a moment. Charles Manson. In 1986, frustrated voters removed three state supreme court justices who consistently blocked death penalty cases and the practice was legalized again shortly thereafter.
I understand and respect the positions held by even some of the most ardent conservatives who oppose the death penalty. If you oppose the practice of taking the life of someone before they are born, preferring to leave their fate in the hands of God, it’s completely consistent and charitable to extend the same theory to those nearing the end of their life through whatever means are in process.
The other side of that coin is also valid, however. Some people prove themselves to be so utterly vile and irredeemable that they can be viewed as having voided their right to go on breathing the same air as everyone else. Beyond that, there are clearly cases where the families of the victims of some of these monsters are described by opponents as “seeking revenge.” But when you look at a case like that of Lisa Montgomery’s, don’t you suppose that the family of Bobbie Jo Stinnett and her unborn baby are entitled to some sort of revenge if they desire it?
As to the question of whether or not capital punishment is a true deterrent to the worst criminals and lessens the chance for recidivism, the data on that is rather fuzzy. I would respond to such questions by noting that the death penalty at least has a 100% chance of eliminating recidivism in the case of the convict being executed. And I find it impossible to believe that there haven’t been cases where someone engaged in a violent crime hasn’t paused with their finger on the trigger and asked themselves if they really want to risk being strapped to a gurney and having a lethal cocktail of drugs pumped into their arms. As liberals so often proclaim when other supposedly compassionate measures are debated, if it saves even one life…
In any event, whether or not such a measure can make it through either chamber in Congress this year is hardly a sure thing. The Democrats’ majority in the House is shaky at best. And in the Senate, it would only take a relative handful of Republicans or Democrats from red states with a “tough on crime” reputation to derail this. Joe Biden being willing to sign such a measure doesn’t mean anything if it never reaches his desk.