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 6:35pm, the state of Texas murdered an innocent man. I realize that sounds like a bold statement made with emotional bravado, but since they didn't bother to take every available avenue to prove me wrong, I stand by my statement. If a society should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but rather by how it treats its prisoners; then all innocent people in our nation have much to fear. What does it say about us that we would rather murder a man in the name of finality than to take every single measure known to man to prove his innocence? Isn't that what you would want if it were you, Mr. Joe Prosecutor?
Larry Swearingen was a human being just like you and I, he had the same emotions, he cried the same tears, he had goals and dreams, failures and shortcomings, and he no doubt raised his voice with the same anger. But on that Wednesday, the state Texas decided that none of those mattered for Larry anymore. Even though there was absolute 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 moral turpitude, beyond a cursory cost-benefit analysis, beyond only God gives life and only He should take life--exists a thing called the "collective conscience." It's an inner feeling or voice guiding a collective group or society as a whole 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, because I could)...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 are innocent. I'm saying that 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, why do you? Prove me wrong! Why are you so afraid of testing evidence or reinvestigating that which might free someone? Where does your fear lie? What is the nucleus of your self-righteousness? 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?