Death Penalty Politics

"Is executing guilty murderers -- as opposed to incarcerating them without possibility of -- so vital a goal that we must accept the execution of the innocent from time to time in order to achieve it?"

That's the crux of the issue in Roger Parloff's article today "The New Abolitionism" in American Lawyer.

Parloff says that "anyone who is unwilling to answer yes to that terrible question should, as a matter of logic, be opposed to capital punishment."

Which reminds us of Al Gore. In February, 2000, he was interviewed in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. The article was called "15 Minutes of Al." When asked about his support of the death penalty in light of the rising number of innocents on death row, Gore said he is so strongly in support of the death penalty that he's willing to accept a few wrongful executions. Here's a portion of the interview.

"BG: What do you think about the Republican governor of Illinois calling a moratorium on the death penalty because there has been so much evidence that innocent people are on death row?

AG: Well, I support the death penalty.

BG: Well, so does he.

AG: I understand, and I also understand that the high-profile cases that have put a new spotlight on the error in capital convictions have put this issue in a new light. In Illinois, I don't want to make a judgment on what the circumstances are because I don't have the expertise. Nationally, I would not be in favor of a moratorium. The "Hurricane" notwithstanding.

BG: Are there people on death row elsewhere, or federal death row, who are innocent? Isn't that something we should be worried about?

AG: I would hope not. But I'll tell you this: I think that any honest and candid supporter of the death penalty has to acknowledge that that support comes in spite of the fact that there will inevitably be some mistakes. And that's a harsh concession to make, but I think it's the only honest concession to make, and it should spur us to have appreciation for habeas corpus, for the procedural safeguards for the accused, and for the fairness that's a part of the American judicial system and to resist efforts to take away the procedural safeguards. " (emphasis supplied by us)

We repeat this not to bash Gore, but in hope that someone reading this will bring it to his attention so that he can amend his remarks if his opinions have changed during the past two and a half years.

If his views are the same, then we will keep searching for the presidential candidate who comes out for a moratorium on the death penalty. And no, it isn't Nader either. He told us he opposed the death penalty, and we believe him, but at the end of his campaign we asked for and didn't receive his support for a federal moratorium on the death penalty like the one instituted in Illinois.

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