Conservatives vs. the Death Penalty (Part One)
The following is an interview with Marc Hyden. Hyden is a National Advocacy Coordinator with Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, and he comes most recently from the National Rifle Association (NRA) where he served as a Campaign Field Representative in the State of Florida. Prior to his service with the NRA, he was the Campaign Manager of a Republican Congressional race in Western North Carolina. Marc has additionally served as the Legislative Liaison/Public Affairs Specialist with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security and as the Legislative Aide to the Georgia Senate President Pro Tempore.
What are some uniquely conservative criticisms of the death penalty?
“Conservatives are becoming increasingly critical of the death penalty system for many reasons – their dedication to individual liberty, a desire for smaller, more efficient government, a commitment to fiscal responsibility, and a belief in the right to life, to name a few.
Conservatives are apprehensive about capital punishment because it’s not a secret that people are wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, this is commonplace. Conservatives, liberals, and centrists all agree that wrongfully convicting someone and executing an innocent person is reprehensible and unacceptable. Conservatives take a moral stand on this issue because of our love of liberty and our deep pro-life beliefs, which require us to fight for all innocent life. Regardless of the government’s attempts to attain perfection, it is fallible, and thus, mistakes will be made.
Nobody wants to see a government that’s wasteful, but conservatives, like me, are especially offended by the government’s spendthrift ways. The death penalty, like so many other programs, wastes money when there is a clear alternative that is a faction of the cost – life-without-parole – and this fact is driving many conservatives to question capital punishment.
Conservatives fear big and powerful government because it’s incredibly costly, doesn’t respect the individuals’ liberties, and becomes oppressive. This deeply rooted concern causes a lot of trepidation regarding the death penalty because there is no greater power than the ability to take life. This consternation is multiplied when you consider the constant failures of government and the real possibility of being executed when you are innocent.”
Does the death penalty deter future murderers?
“Capital punishment is so arbitrarily and inconsistently issued that it’s difficult to make the case that the death penalty serves as a deterrent. About 1 out of every 100 murders results in a death sentence, and only 15 counties account for 30% of the entire nation’s use of the death penalty. By that probability alone, there would be a minimal to no deterrent factor because most localities don’t use the death penalty and 99% of murderers don’t get it.
The National Research Council examined all of the deterrence studies done in the United States. This was the largest and most recent analysis of all the data available. It concluded that there is no credible evidence to suggest that the death penalty deters.”
Are there any states in which conservatives are the primary sources of opposition to the death penalty?
“There isn’t a state effort to get rid of the death penalty today without conservative involvement. Our group, Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, started in Montana where a group of conservative leaders saw that the Montana state death penalty system was broken beyond repair. Conservatives are also connecting around this issue in Nebraska, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Delaware, among many others. They are beginning to accomplish amazing things through conservative involvement, and all may have their own state-based Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty chapters soon. Many conservatives have been interested in becoming involved in death penalty repeal efforts for some time, and they are now truly becoming engaged on the issue. Today, we are seeing conservative leaders in the states at the forefront – standing with our conservative allies at the national and state-level.
Nebraska, for instance, had the votes in the legislature to repeal the death penalty earlier this year, but it was held up by a filibuster. Nebraska is a conservative state, and the impressive work that has been done there in conjunction with conservative leaders and the grassroots is the source of much of the progress that they have seen.”