I'm sad to say Minnesoata State Representative Tom Hackbarth (GOP) has just introduced legislation (Bill HF0329) to bring back the death penalty in this state.
This is a copy of the letter I have sent him:
January 29, 2001 Tom Hackbarth 577 State Office Building Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155 Dear Tom Hackbarth, I am dismayed at your efforts to bring the death penalty back to Minnesota. I do not think that such legislation is appropriate to or consistent with the progressive and enlightened political tradition in this state. I understand the emotional attraction of the death penalty: it's simplicity, finality and message of moral authority. But it is just these values that provide the strongest arguments against such a policy. The apparent simplicity of the death penalty is an illusion. It is well-established that the legal machinations associated with applying the death penalty are horrifically expensive, greater even than the cost of lifetime incarceration. In my opinion the only way to reduce this cost would be to substantially reduce the convicteds' rights of appeal, to gut the very checks on our system that are our only chance to insure we get this most final of judgments right. It is also well-established that the death penalty is not applied fairly with regard to race or class of the accused. Bad enough that so much of our system can be accused of this; shall we also take life so capriciously? The finality of the death penalty is also, in my opinion, a strong argument against it being an accepted legal tool. If ever one has been suspicious of the powers of an over-reaching state, surely one can imagine that governments are too easily corrupted to be entrusted with the power to kill their own citizens. If power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then perhaps the power of life and death is a bit much for any human organization, whatever its honorable intentions. Finally, much is made of the powerful message imposition of the death penalty sends (probably because every educated person knows that no study has ever demonstrated any actual deterrent effect of the "ultimate punishment.") Let's examine that message: * Important decisions shall be based upon emotional impulses without regard to dispassionate considerations (since a desire for revenge seems to be the principle basis for an expensive penalty which has no deterrent effect) * Some lives are more valuable than others (since on the one hand the state seems to say that taking a life is the ultimate crime yet on the other hand it takes lives with impunity) * Violence is the ultimate effective tool for wielding power and punishing the weak (since the state, with all its resources, can't manage to think of anything more appropriate than killing certain people.) Yes, I do believe the death penalty sends a powerful moral message: Do what I say, not what I do. The death penalty is a mistake for Minnesota, a mistake for this country, a mistake for people who would call themselves civilized. Oppositon to the death penalty is not about protecting criminals, it is about protecting and preserving the very foundation of values upon which state power and its moral authority rest. Its about sparing the citizens the taint of killing done in their names. It is about refusing to become what one opposes just because the fight is difficult. I implore you to reconsider your support and sponsorship of this legislation. Respectfully, Alicia Knapp