In Thursday’s edition of the
, David Burge, an attorney and chairman of the Georgia 5
Congressional District Republican Party, wrote an op-ed piece in which he explains why he is against the death penalty. Aspects to Burge’s argument focus on, what he believes, is a lack of fiscal responsibility among states—like Georgia—where capital punishment is legal because endorsing the death penalty is extremely expensive, risky and ineffective in reducing crime.
According to Burge, the legal process for capital cases—appeals, in particular—is much more costly than it is for typical trials. Burge asserts that taking shortcuts to the due process would, however, put too many people—innocent people who have been wrongfully convicted—at risk of being executed because the legal system is fallible, as many exoneration cases have proven. Hence, says Burge, capital punishment should be banned in the United States.
Lately, the national spotlight has been focused on Georgia’s death penalty system. Although this focus has been on a few high-profile cases, the scrutiny also should be on the entire capital punishment program — one that is plagued by frequent errors, inefficiency and waste. As a lifelong conservative Republican, I have come to believe the death penalty is no longer worth the cost or risk for Georgia. . . .
. . . In my first job after law school, I served as a judicial law clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit here in Atlanta, where I was confronted firsthand with the death penalty’s expense and complexities. Each capital appeal required far more time of the judges and court staff than comparable life-without-parole appeals and often came back for court review multiple times.
Although it may be tempting to limit these appeals, when you limit the appeals process, you significantly increase the risk of executing an innocent person. Past cases show it can take well over 30 years to clear a wrongly convicted individual who has been sentenced to death.
Even with all this increased cost and effort required to administer capital punishment, it still does not produce favorable outcomes for our state. In fact, there remains an unacceptable risk to innocent life. Georgia has executed 57 individuals and wrongly convicted and released five from death row, while others were executed despite serious questions surrounding their guilt. Troy Davis was executed 20 years after his conviction, but growing doubt about his verdict was not enough to halt his execution. Our government is not perfect, and when you give an imperfect state the power of life and death, innocent lives will inevitably be exposed to the fallibility of the system. . . .