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2/22/2013 10:49:00 AM
Time for this institution to end
Lethal injection syringes.
Lethal injection syringes.

When the Supreme Court restored the death penalty in 1976, the justices touted deterrence and retribution. These reasons have been shown to be empty.

A National Research Council committee — these are serious scholars — found no real evidence that the death penalty deters murder. Many other reputable studies argue that life in prison without possibility of parole is a better path, since capital punishment is expensive, drawn-out and applied arbitrarily.  

When it comes to a death sentence, getting it wrong once is too many. Since 1973, 142 death row inmates have exonerated using DNA or other kinds of evidence. We shudder to think how many innocent people have been executed in our names.

The wrongness of the death penalty is dawning on America. In 2012, Connecticut became the fifth state in five years to abolish it. Oregon's Gov. John Kitzhaber said last year that he would not approve executions while in office. Most executions take place in a handful of states, with most states either banning the practice or simply no longer using it.

We are heartened by this passive consensus, but think it's time for the nation to act with integrity and knock the death penalty off the books. Why keep up the charade? Sadly, we have made our politicians feel they have to be "tough on crime," and made capital punishment a farcical litmus test.  

We Catholics have consistently heard from our church's teachers that the reasons that once justified the death penalty no longer apply. Pope John Paul told us in the mid-1990s that modern methods of incarceration made us safe. Pope Benedict and our local bishops have reaffirmed that there is no longer a need to perform executions to keep society safe. Killing inmates, no matter how heinous their acts, is unnecessary and is therefore a violation of God's law.

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