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Letter to the editor

Vote to oppose death penalty

October 20, 2006

A recent poll taken by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute shows that 54 percent favor the death penalty. As you know there will be a non-binding referendum on the Nov. 7 ballot regarding this issue. I believe the public is largely unaware of the research evidence on the death penalty. For instance, the death penalty does not deter people from committing homicide. States with the death penalty have higher rates compared with non-death penalty states. Then too, states that have restored this penalty have not witnessed a decrease in homicide. Also, the death penalty is often discriminatory against minorities and the poor. Contrary to popular belief, it costs much more to execute someone than it does to impose life imprisonment without parole. And there is no real safeguard against ending an innocent person’s life. DNA tests are certainly a big step, but this can only apply in some cases. Since the early 1970s there have been more than 100 people on death row who were found to be innocent due to mistakes made in the criminal court proceedings, including witnesses who mistakenly identified the defendant or outright lied, thus influencing the jury’s decision.

In my opinion, the death penalty serves only to satisfy the emotion of revenge against offense and the offender. People found guilty should be given life imprisonment without parole.

Robert Pionke
Professor emeritus