Friday, June 27, 2008

Democrats: Death Penalty Reform

The worst thing that any politician can do is to get and stay on defense on an important issue. Trying to avoid a topic, or answering it in a legalistic way can lead to disaster. Not always, but the potential is there.
I suggest as democrats we should have an agenda on each policy item that is right for the nation and also good politics.
This week's SC decision to ban the use of the death penalty in heinous child rape cases was the wrong decision and demands that candidates state their position both substanitively and legally.
Here's what I suggest for our nominee:
1. Propose and advocate a nationwide, 50 state moriatorium on the death penalty. Try to get the governors of all 50 states to agree, and work to try to get national standards.
2. Propose all 1st degree murder convictions be submitted to the jury as death penalty cases. Also, leave the discretion to the proscecutors to seek the death penalty in non 1st degree murder cases, including any other crime that truly shocks the community's conscience.
3. Ensure that every death penalty case's defense is fully funded from day 1. That means the state and federal government should pay for an "o.j." type defense where no reasonable person could argue that there wasn't a fair trial and the defendant got every possible constitutional right.
4. If convicted and sentenced under the above scenario, the sentence should be carried out quickly. The appeals should be exhausted in less than 3 months. This fits the definition of effective punishment: immediate, sufficient in force, and consistently applied.
In order to secure our values as a country, and define morality and goodness, our society has to establish limits of what is intolerable under any circumstance. That is why the death penalty is needed. The problem with the system today is that is not fairly applied, it is not applied enough throughout our society, and when it is applied it is done in such an inefficient way its' effect is minimized.
Democrats have a chance to develop a system that both supporters and detractors of the death penalty can at least agree that the process was fair and at least met its' purpose. What we have right now allows reasonable people like me to be anti-capital punishment for reasons that have nothing to do with the facts in the case.
In reality, the 50 states will probably not agree to even a 1 day moriatorium, and much of the rest will run into political snafu's. But in this process, obama can establish a new way of doing business as a democrat. Addressing civil liberties and constitutional rights in a world that demands tough choices.
Much of what I propose is gospel on the left:
more money for defenseequal standards for everyone
while many on the right would love:the death penalty for anyone who intentionally with malice kills someone (1st degree murder)--
the death penalty expanded to cases like these child rape examples.
the process being curtailed so it can actually work.
This is my take on what really is right and could work. It is the opposite of being a moderate. It is what I call a "newliberal", making an honest effort to do what's right based on facts and logic. Every aspect can be defended on the merits, rather than a compromised position trying to please everyone.

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