by David Simmonds
I’ll start this by saying that I was undecided about the merits of the death penalty in the U.S., until recently. Having no traditional religious faith, I am not burdened with the inconvenient hypocrisy exhibited by my many Christian friends who claim to live their lives based on the guidance of the Ten Commandments, most notably the one “thou shall not kill”. My understanding is that this edict is pretty clear, with no qualifiers, “buts”, or “unless whens”. But still, in my real world, I know how I would react if someone were to intentionally kill one of my kids or my wife. Having black and white opinions is never easy, much less rational.
One major dilemma is how we decide who gets gassed and who doesn’t. You have money, you live. If you’re poor and a minority, maybe not. Plus, with DNA technology now perfected, we’re finding that our trail-by-jury system doesn’t always get it right. Since 1973 nearly 150 people have been released from death row with new evidence proving their innocence. How many more innocent people have been executed? Could that happen to you? Yeah, its possible.
Now we’re reading and hearing about Marine corporal Cesar Laurean who is believed to have fled to Mexico, his birthplace, as a suspect in the murder of fellow Marine Maria Lauterbach in North Carolina. Editorial boards and talk radio callers have grabbed this one by the tail in indignant anger knowing that Mexico will not extradite anyone to the U.S., unless it is agreed that the death penalty will not be sought. On December 9, 2005, then-President Fox declared, “Mexico shares the opinion that capital punishment is a violation of human rights. Today the death penalty has been abolished”, even though Mexico had not executed anyone since 1961. The constitution was amended at that time. Mexico is hardly alone, as 135 other countries have abolished the death penalty, including all of the European Union countries, as well as our northern neighbor, Canada. Indeed, the only countries which execute more people than the United States in a year are China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Congo…all of which are dictatorships (Iraq, I’m not sure what it is these days). That’s not a fraternal membership to be proud of.
I could go on and on about the pros and cons; like Canada’s murder rate dropped 43% in 24 years after abolishing the death penalty, therefore it is not a deterrent. Or the issue of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations agreement from 1963 which obligates U.S. authorities to inform foreign detainees the right to contact the nearest consulate from their country, something the U.S routinely ignores, and merely apologizes for after the fact (execution) when it is pointed out to them.
But the more direct point I’m trying to make is that Mexico has every right as a sovereign nation to decide their position on murder, and the penalties for committing it. They and most of the civilized world have abolished the death penalty. I’m not necessarily advocating that we do the same, but it is clearly about time to re-open the discussion. What needs to be acknowledged is that we are in no position to dictate to other countries on this matter. The age of imperial power and subjugation has mercifully ended…the U.S. seems to be the last country to figure this out.