Since 1981, seven men who had been convicted of murder and sent to Alabama’s Death Row have, during the judicial appeal process, been found actually innocent of the crime. Because the judicial system is so badly under-funded – and defendants almost universally too poor to afford good lawyers – it is likely that the appeal system has failed other actually innocent men, who have been put to death for crimes they did not commit.
Our current death penalty appeal system is certainly not perfect, and it does take a long time. But it has saved seven innocent lives.
Now Alabama’s Attorney General Luther Strange wants to make the appeal system “more efficient.” Which means simply speeding it up – without doing anything at all to make it more effective in executing true justice. His “Fair Justice Act” being presented in the Legislature this session will simply make it much more likely that more actually innocent people will be executed.
It seems to me tragically ironic that this very Un-Fair Justice Act is being considered by our Legislature at the same time people in Alabama and throughout our country are celebrating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who stood up, spoke out and eventually gave his life in the cause of equal justice for everyone.
King reminded us, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” He called us to live Jesus’ way of love, never responding to hate with hate. Criminals, even murderers, are still God’s children. We are called to hate the crime, not the person. That’s hard. Reflecting on the history of capital punishment, Dr. King pointed out “On the one hand, we proudly profess certain sublime and noble principles, but on the other hand, we sadly live according to the philosophy that life is a matter of getting even. We bow before the altar of revenge.”
I want to point out that even if we think the death penalty itself can be justified – I personally do not – and even though some feel getting revenge could be acceptable, it makes no sense and is clearly just hateful to advocate a “reform” of the judicial process that is more likely to kill innocent people.
If you want to make your feelings known to the Legislature, you should immediately call: Rep. Paul DeMarco (334-242-7667) and Sen. Cam Ward (334-242-7873), chairs of Judiciary, urging this bill not be voted out of their committees.