Thursday, March 29, 2012

Do We Deserve To Kill?

Bryan Stevenson
I consider myself very fortunate to have met Bryan Stevenson up close and personal.  I have heard him speak countless times, and he never fails to inspire and educate.  No one speaks with more power, eloquence and compassion on the death penalty, on criminal justice, on race, and on how these issues intersect.

The Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Institute in Alabama, Bryan is a brilliant lawyer who recently argued in the United States Supreme Court on behalf of two defendants who were sentenced to life without parole for murders committed when they were fourteen.  He was a guest on Rachel Maddow's show last night, where he discussed the cases, which he described as "death in prison" for juveniles, and how the death penalty frequently "obscures such other issues of severe and excessive punishment."

Bryan explained how our political discourse around crime and punishment "has been corrupted by decades of politics of fear and anger" so that people believe that the fact that a terrible crime has been committed is the "end of the conversation."  But, he maintained, while the criminal justice system is designed to punish and protect public safety, "it also has to be just, to have integrity and to have credibility."

Finally, he talked about the death penalty:
Increasingly we have to confront the fact that the death penalty in this country isn't a question that has to be answered by simply asking, "do people deserve to die for the crimes they committed?"  I think we have to ask, "do we deserve to kill?"  And if our system is flawed, if our system is discriminatory, if our system is unequal as to class and economic status, if our system permits innocent people to be wrongfully convicted and condemned, then I think we will get to a different answer then we might otherwise get. 
Bryan Stevenson is a national treasure.  Here's the entire segment:.


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