Editor’s note: Austin Sarat is our very first superstar guest blogger! He is getting up to speed on the technology and posted this as a comment but I am making it its own post. It goes nicely with Geoff’s. Now. . . read and discuss.
Meantime, the news reports about the feds. seeking the death penalty for terror suspects leads me to ask, what happened to the death penalty as a national political issue? Think back 20 years ago to the following question and answer involving CNN newsman Bernard Shaw and Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis:
SHAW: Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?
DUKAKIS: No, I don’t, Bernard. And I think you know that I’ve opposed the death penalty during all of my life. I don’t see any evidence that it’s a deterrent, and I think there are better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime. We’ve done so in my own state. And it’s one of the reasons why we have had the biggest drop in crime of any industrial state in America; why we have the lowest murder rate of any industrial state in America. But we have work to do in this nation. We have work to do to fight a real war, not a phony war, against drugs. And that’s something I want to lead, something we haven’t had over the course of the past many years, even though the Vice President has been at least allegedly in charge of that war. We have much to do to step up that war, to double the number of drug enforcement agents, to fight both here and abroad, to work with our neighbors in this hemisphere. And I want to call a hemispheric summit just as soon after the 20th of January as possible to fight that war. But we also have to deal with drug education prevention here at home. And that’s one of the things that I hope I can lead personally as the President of the United States. We’ve had great success in my own state. And we’ve reached out to young people and their families and been able to help them by beginning drug education and prevention in the early elementary grades. So we can fight this war, and we can win this war. And we can do so in a way that marshals our forces, that provides real support for state and local law enforcement officers who have not been getting that support, and do it in a way which will bring down violence in this nation, will help our youngsters to stay away from drugs, will stop this avalanche of drugs that’s pouring into the country, and will make it possible for our kids and our families to grow up in safe and secure and decent neighborhoods.
For the full transcript see http://www.debates.org/pages/trans88b.html
Such a question seems alomst unimagineable today. It maybe because Democrats have moved to the right of Dukakis on the death penalty issue. It may also be because the climate surrounding capital punishment has cooled.
Indeed I think we are in a period of national reconsideration of capital punishment, a period that was entirely unforseeable twenty or even ten years ago. Death sentences are down , executions are down , and public support is down .
Nebraska’s Supreme Court just struck down that state’sd method of execution (electrocution), and the nation is in a defacto moratorium while the Supreme Court considers a challenge to lethal injection.
In the words of Buffalo Springfield, “Something’s Happening Here ….What It Is Ain’t Exactly Clear.”
If there is interest I’d be pleased to offer some thoughts on how we got to this place with respect to capital punishment and to speculate on the future of capital punishment in the U.S.
Meantime I can’t wait for the SUPERSTAR!