Irony of the morning: In this "Christian nation," it takes a fiscal argument to get states moving on repealing the death penalty.
Mr. Epp alerts us to a movement afoot in Kansas to save money by ending capital punishment. The NY Times cites six other states where that debate is taking place, including Maryland, where one study estimated that carrying a capital punishment case to its grim conclusion costs $1.9 million more than imprisoning a convict for life.
$1.9 million? With savings like that, it is surprising (as Mr. Epp observes) that Governor Rounds didn't include a death-penalty repeal in his cost-cutting budget for South Dakota. Evidently, the way Governor Rounds read it in January, South Dakota just didn't have the money to support the State Fair, the South Dakota Arts Council, the Birth to 3 Connections program, or cost-of-living increases for state workers, but it can afford to spend two decades wrangling with Donald Moeller in court instead of just locking his cell door and throwing away the key.
You may read something unseemly in the fact that a fiscal argument about money might produce results where moral arguments fall on deaf ears. But such is the nature of politics in a pluralistic society. When we approach policy questions from different religious and moral perspectives, we often must find common ground with pragmatic policy answers. On health care, I like to argue that we have a moral (Christian?) obligation to take care of each other, but the more compelling argument in the legislative arena for universal health care is that it saves lives and money. On abortion, I recognize some abortions are carried out for reasons I would find morally questionable, but I recognize that the abortion bans South Dakota has considered are poorly written policy that wouldn't produce the desired results.
So has our prosecution of Donald Moeller, now entering its twentieth year, produced the intended results? Has it made South Dakota a less violent state than states with no death penalty?
Attorney General Long, do your part to balance South Dakota's budget: call Moeller's lawyers, make a deal, and let Moeller rot in jail for the rest of his natural life.
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