John Kerry on the Death Penalty

Massachussetts Senator and presidential hopeful John Kerry is looking better and better to us. He was interviewed Sunday by Tim Russert on Meet the Press about his opinions on the death penalty. Here's what he said:

MR. RUSSERT: David Broder wrote a column in June which I want to show you again: ”[Sen. John] Kerry is also a man who opposes the death penalty, wants to restrict access to guns and voted against the resolution approving the start of ground operations against Saddam Hussein in 1991—just what you would expect from Ted Kennedy’s partner and Michael Dukakis’s running mate, the Republicans will surely say.”

The Congressional Quarterly does an analysis of key votes and let me show you. Over the last four years, Kennedy and Kerry voted exactly alike 100 percent of the time over your 17 years in the Senate now. You’ve voted, like, 93 percent of the time. Will you have Senator Kennedy’s support for your presidential run?

SEN. KERRY: Well, it’s up to Senator Kennedy to make any announcement about his support, but Icertainly would want it and I would welcome it. I think he’s an extraordinary legislator, and the fights he has fought are fights that have made a difference to the quality of life of our fellow Americans. I differ with him on some issues. He knows that, and I think you have to look at those issues. I voted...

MR. RUSSERT: But won’t you be branded another Massachusetts Ted Kennedy liberal?

SEN. KERRY: I think, Tim, as people get to know me in the course of this, they’ll know the things that I have fought for and the things I stand for. I was a prosecutor. I’ve sent people to jail for the rest of their life. I’m opposed to the death penalty in the criminal justice system because I think it’s applied unfairly, as even Republican governors have determined, and because I’m for a worse punishment. I think it is worse to take somebody and put them in a small cell for the rest of their life, deprived of their freedom, never to bed. Now, I think that’s tougher. Let me just finish.

MR. RUSSERT: But, Senator, why shouldn’t Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the Oklahoma building, or if John Muhammad is convicted of being a sniper here in Washington—why shouldn’t they receive the death penalty?

SEN. KERRY: Tim, I think that, as I said, you know, different people have different opinions about what’s worse. I’ve seen people die and I know what it’s like to almost die. I don’t think that—you know, dying is scary for a while, but in the end, the punishment is gone. When you’re alive and you’re deprived of your freedom each day and you’re in tough circumstances—and I’m talking about tough circumstances. I’m not talking about some cushy situation where they live off the fat of the land in prison. I’m talking about tough. But if you’re deprived of that freedom for the rest of your living days until God decides to take you, you know, that is tough, my friend, and I think that plenty of people think that.

Now, I don’t think it is right to have a criminal justice system that kills innocent people. Over 100 people have been released from death row in America in the last year with DNA evidence and other evidence showing they didn’t commit the crime for which they had been committed, some of them in jail for 10, 15 years for a crime they didn’t commit.

MR. RUSSERT: So you would have a moratorium on the death penalty until there’s further research.

SEN. KERRY: I’ve said that previously. I think we need to look at it. But more importantly, Tim, that’s not affected at the federal level. That’s not where the crime of this country is fought. It’s fought state for state by state prosecutors. That’s where it’s done. And I would honor, obviously, the laws of those states and that’s the way we should proceed. But far more importantly, are we going to do the things in this country...

MR. RUSSERT: So if a state had a death penalty, you would respect it?

SEN. KERRY: Of course. You have to respect the law. The law of the land is the law of the land, but I have also said that I am for the death penalty for terrorists because terrorists have declared war on your country. And just as I, in a war, was prepared to kill in defense of my nation, I also believe that you
eliminate the enemy and I have said publicly that I support that.

MR. RUSSERT: So you would have an exception in your moral opposition for terrorists?

SEN. KERRY: That is correct. It’s not moral. I have said that I object to it on the basis of the way it’s applied and the way that it’s not the toughest punishment, but I do believe with respect to terrorists, that is correct.

Other Kerry news:

In Cleveland Tuesday, Kerry came right out and said it: Bush is using Iraq as a distraction from the nation's economic problems.

< Report on Texas Death Row Appeals | Miranda Arguments Wednesday >
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