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The Economist: Prospect of executing an innocent person ‘so awful that it’s worth dismantling the entire system in order to preclude it’

The EconomistIn “The political calculus on capital punishment,” The Economist‘s Democracy in America blog examines recent problems with death penalty cases and America’s perceived support for a broken system:

One of the most startling poll results I’ve ever seen about anything comes from Gallup on this question. In 2009 they found that a substantial majority of people, nearly 60% of respondents, believe that an innocent person has been executed in the past five years. As Gallup explains: “However, for many Americans, agreement with the assertion that innocent people have been put to death does not preclude simultaneous endorsement of the death penalty. A third of all Americans, 34%, believe an innocent person has been executed and at the same time support the death penalty.”

This strikes me as both bizarre and horrible. There can’t be any greater miscarriage of justice than the execution of an innocent person. That prospect is so awful that it’s worth dismantling the entire system in order to preclude it. If nothing else, you would think that capital-punishment supporters would be reluctant to give their opponents the ammunition. But the problem may be precisely that these cases aren’t sufficient ammunition for the opposition. This might be an issue where people need to get their own thoughts straight before they have any chance of pushing politicians to a more temperate perspective.

Need help getting your thoughts straighter? Read our reasons why the death penalty should be abolished.

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