I'm Not Afraid to be Wrong Mr. Prosecutor, Why Are You?
by Liz Franklin
Wednesday, August 21, 2019, was a very sad day for our nation and humanity as a whole. At 6:35 pm, the state of Texas murdered an innocent man. I realize that may sound like a bold statement made with emotional bravado, but since the State didn't take every available avenue to prove me wrong, I stand by my statement. If a society is not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but rather by how it treats its prisoners, then innocent people everywhere have much to fear. What does it say about us that we would rather murder a fellow human being in the name of finality than take every measure known to science to prove his innocence? Isn't that what you would want if it were you, Mr. Prosecutor?
Larry Swearingen was a person just like you and me; he had the same emotions, he cried the same tears, he had goals and dreams, failures and shortcomings, fears and trepidations, hopes and expectations. But on that Wednesday, the state of Texas decided that none of that mattered. Even though there was most definitely doubt about his guilt, they were going to kill him anyway. What has happened to us that we no longer care about actual innocence but care more about the win or lose? Somewhere beyond an eye-for-an-eye, beyond a cursory cost-benefit analysis, beyond only God gives life and only He should take life--exists a concept called the collective conscience. This is a set of shared beliefs within a society, working together to create common social norms. Also defined as hive mind, mass mind, and social mind. It might best be described as the inner voice that guides a given society to the rightness or wrongness of their behavior. It is what allows us, as a civilized culture, to lie our heads down on our pillows at night and rest easy; knowing we have done the right thing.
The problem with murdering someone as a punishment, and make no mistake, call it what you will, it is murder--calling it the death penalty is just putting lipstick on a pig--is that you can't change your mind later on. If new evidence comes to light, if someone else confesses, if a dirty cop comes clean or gets busted, or if junk science is discovered (need I go on)...it's too late. That finality is a tricky thing; it cuts both ways. The Supremes have long upheld their decision that finality takes precedence above all else because the victims deserve peace and an end to their tragic ordeal.
However, what happens when it is discovered, say two years after an execution, that the person found guilty and executed was actually innocent?
Oh, and add to that, that the actual guilty person was left free all this time to commit more crimes. What kind of peace and finality do you think victims will have then? Sadly, that too, cannot be undone.
I'm not saying that all people on death row who claim to be innocent, are innocent. But if there is the tiniest glint of doubt, shouldn't that doubt be dispelled at all costs? I don't mind being wrong, Mr. Prosecutor, prove me wrong! Why are you so afraid of testing evidence or reinvestigating that which might free someone? Where does your fear lie? Where does the nucleus of your self-righteousness live? My fear and I'd like to think that I speak for the majority, lies in murdering an innocent person. Why isn't yours?
It saddens me to think that Benjamin Franklin may have been right when he said, "Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are." Why does it have to come to that? Shouldn't we be better than that?
And who decided that killing people who kill people to teach people not to kill people was a good idea anyway? Does that sound at all rational? We have to do better...we can do better...we must do better. There is a very good chance we murdered an innocent person on August 21, 2019 (and many more along the way) and I, for one, cannot rest easy with that---can you?