Three death penalty issues came into focus this week. There are points to be made about each, but what all three issues- mental retardation, lethal injection, and evidence of innocence– make clear is that the business of death is messy. In fact, it’s too messy and not worth it. Innocent people are sentenced to death. It’s expensive. It’s biased against the poor and minorities. It keeps victims’ families from healing with an execution on an unknown date hanging out there in the ether.
Opponents to the new bill had argued it should be up to judges to determine whether defendants are retarded. But we believe that juries are well equipped to make that decision.
In a PA Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this spring, Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) stated that asking a jury to determine a defendant’s mental retardation after convicting him/her of murder is “clearly prejudicial” against the defendant. The Sun might be right if a non-death-qualified jury made the determination before trial, but the House failed to offer that alternative.
The SCOTUS asked the states to stop executing persons with mental retardation. If HB 698 becomes law, Pennsylvania will fail in its constitutional responsibility.
Meanwhile, Karl at CapitalDefenseWeekly.com had this to say about the lethal injection issue:
In the broader sense, however, Hill is about us. It is about whether there are certain things we shouldn’t do. Hill will start a conversation in some people’s minds that maybe we shouldn’t use lethal injection because the person we are to kill, and possible torture unto death, is, at the end of the day, a person. Not too far removed from the question about why use lethal injection is the question of why kill at all.
Andy in the HBG