Righteous Cause: Fight to End the Death Penalty
For my first ten years as a deputy public defender the fight to abolish capital punishment was not my fight. It should have been but it wasn’t. Although always firmly against the death penalty, in my mind the movement was in the incredibly capable hands of capital litigators, abolitionists, and academics. They were the ones who knew the history, the statistics, had relationships with victim groups, or had a client whose life they passionately defended.
My role as passive objector evolved when I became involved in a death penalty case. In 2015 as one of the lawyers defending James Holmes in the Aurora Theater shooting trial everything about capital punishment became so tangible and so excruciatingly real.
Day after day we were in a courtroom where the government intentionally and deliberately worked to kill another human being. Oh and in a different courtroom, in the same courthouse, another set of prosecutors intentionally and deliberately worked to uphold another man’s death penalty verdict.
What should we do? Get involved. No resume is required. Let’s not be shy.
Whether for you it is the random and arbitrary imposition of the death penalty. Whether for you it is the racial discrimination in its application. Last week at a fundraiser we were reminded that in Colorado there are three men are on death row, these men are all African American, all three prosecuted by the same District Attorney’s Office, all three even attended the same high school.
Whether for you it is simply the mark of an uncivilized society that you refuse to implicitly stand behind. Whether for you it is a belief that evolving standards of decency demand abolition. Whether for you it is that you agree with majority of social science research that the death penalty has no deterrent effect. Whether for you it is that retribution and vengeance have no place in a civilized nation.
Whether for you it is that capital punishment makes no fiscal sense.
Whether for you it is that it will never be morally appropriate for the State of kill one of its own. Whether for you it is the danger of irreversible irrevocable error. Supporting the end of capital punishment is never at odds with the deep respect and empathy we have for victims and their loved ones. This is a righteous cause. Fight. Contribute. Support programs that train capital defenders. Each capital trial that ends in a life verdict erodes the foundation and core support for the death penalty.