The Death Penalty – A Government Power Prone to Error and Abuse

Ben Jones
Oct 17, 2013 at 10:10 AM

This week, Young Americans for Liberty welcomed Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty (CCATDP) as its newest Strategic Partner. CCATDP is a national network of conservatives and libertarians questioning the alignment of capital punishment with our principles. Those committed to limiting the power of government have every reason to reject the death penalty. After all, few powers are more dangerous or more prone to abuse than the power to execute. When we look at the death penalty’s application in the United States, it becomes clear the inevitable dangers that this power poses.

In the 32 states that have the death penalty, many have tried to craft laws that make the practice “foolproof” and “workable.” These efforts have been an abysmal failure. Since 1973, 142 individuals sentenced to death in the U.S. later were exonerated and released after new evidence of their innocence emerged. Other executions have gone forward despite strong doubts over the condemned’s guilt.

To make the situation even worse, our tax dollars are paying for this system that puts innocent life at risk. Because of past mistakes, the courts have mandated “super due process” in capital cases, which requires extra lawyers, extra investigators, a separate sentencing phase at the trial, and extra appeals. What results is a prolonged legal process that costs state governments millions of dollars more than the alternative of life in prison without parole. Unsurprisingly, this costly bureaucratic mess still makes mistakes.

Given how broken and costly this system is, leading figures in the Liberty Movement are calling for an end to the death penalty. Ron Paul recently endorsed CCATDP, praising the group’s “efforts to form a coalition of libertarians and conservatives to work to end capital punishment.” Jeff Frazee, YAL’s Executive Director, also has voiced his opposition to the death penalty: “I first supported the death penalty until I found out how many innocent individuals were being killed and how costly it was on the taxpayers…. I now strongly oppose the death penalty.”

Some YAL chapters have begun raising awareness about the death penalty on their campuses. This past spring, the YAL chapter at the University of Kansas worked with other campus groups to organize an event featuring death row exoneree Kirk Bloodsworth. Due to mistaken eyewitness testimony, Kirk was sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit and spent eight years in prison before DNA evidence proved his innocence. Kirk’s talk was a powerful event that highlighted the devastating impact that the death penalty can have on innocent citizens.

Kirk Bloodsworth with University of Kansas YAL Chapter

CCATDP at 2013 Kansas YAL Convention

Momentum to end the death penalty is growing — six states in the past six years have abandoned it. If you want to join these efforts, there are many ways to get involved. You can sign up for updates from CCATDP and connect with us via Facebook and Twitter. Also, if you would like to work with CCATDP on organizing an event on your campus, please contact me at benj@conservativesconcerned.org.