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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Big issues, weak reasons

Taking big steps on important issues for the wrong reasons. A statewide smoking ban, for example:

Even the lobbyist who represents some of the principal opponents of a statewide ban said it's just a matter of time before smoking is prohibited across Indiana.

“There's no doubt in my mind that eventually we will have a smoking ban,” said John Livengood, president of the Indiana Restaurant Association, the Indiana Hotel and Lodging Association and the Indiana Hospitality and Tourism Foundation. “I think public opinion is on that side. Even though I personally feel like it is not something government ought to do, clearly it's where we've been heading for a long time. It's more of question of when than anything else.”

Giving in to the inevitable when the public mood catches up with the intended public agenda? If smoking bans are such a good idea, why aren't local communities passing them? Oh, wait; they are. If home rule is already working, why replace it with a statewide mandate? Because they're state-level politicians, that's why.

And the death penalty:

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller wants state leaders to take a closer look at the exorbitant costs of death penalty cases and the impact they have on taxpayers.

[. . .]

“So it is time that we in the criminal justice system have a candid conversation about the economic impact of capital punishment in Indiana,” Zoeller added.

There are plenty of reasons to have doubts about capital punishment, including, from a conservative/libertarian perspective, whether it is wise to trust the state with life-and-death power. But the cost shouldn't really be a factor, except for the obvious need to hold it down as much as possible. The death penalty is either a valid component the criminal-justice tool kit, or it isn't.

Talk about capricious: "Well, triple murderer Jones, this is your lucky day. The state has a real budget crisis, so you get to serve a life sentence instead. Oh, wait; we just got word that revenues exceeded forecasts this month. Strap him to the gurney, boys."


Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:03pm

Do you really think there are significant numbers of people out there who wouldn't commit murder because of the possibility of execution, but who would be undeterred by life in prison?
Personally, I'd prefer to be executed.
It is a simple fact that innocent people have been executed. Remember the accused arsonist in Texas convicted because the state's "expert" witness misinterpreted the crime scene?
I cannot imagine a greater horror. More than a hundred people have been freed from death rows after DNA tests established their innocence.

Lewis Allen
Tue, 11/16/2010 - 11:01pm

Re: the statewide smoking ban proposal: Good to see that the state is also willing to protect us from ourselves. Good grief.

re: the death penalty: To Leo's point, I agree that cost should not be a factor in the capital punishment debate. It's probably the least important piece of the debate. I've got a lot of reasons that I'm against it, including those that Littlejohn points out. But mostly it that we should never, ever, trust the state with life and death power.