EDITORIALS: Birmingham News Calls for Moratorium on Alabama's Death Penalty

A recent editorial in the Birmingham News called on Alabama lawmakers to pass legislation that would require a three-year moratorium on imposing death sentences and carrying out executions, giving the state time to address flaws in the death penalty system. The editorial outlined five reasons why legislators with various positions should be united in such an effort. The paper stated:

- Lawmakers who are pro-life should be concerned Alabama is among the nation's most gung-ho and careless states in putting people to death.

- Lawmakers who are fiscally conservative should be concerned that studies in other states have shown it's much less expensive to lock up killers for life than to put them to death. A newspaper report found Florida could save a whopping $51 million a year by sentencing killers to life without parole rather than death.

- Lawmakers who are troubled by racial disparities should be concerned the color of a defendant's or victim's skin plays a role in who gets executed.

- Lawmakers who don't trust our government with too much power or too many tasks surely ought to be concerned about its execution of citizens, just as a matter of principle.

- Lawmakers who are worried about the prospect of executing the wrong person should be concerned that Alabama has been terribly stingy with legal representation, that innocent people across the country have, in fact, been convicted of crimes and that the court system has not been wholly reliable in righting these miscarriages of justice.

The editorial concluded, “Lawmakers should also look at the costs of carrying out death sentences in Alabama and evaluate whether continuing to do so represents the best use of the state's limited resources. They should look at the problem of wrongful convictions and determine whether there can ever be enough assurance an innocent person won't be put to death. And lawmakers ought to study the arbitrary criteria that decide which crimes are worthy of the death penalty and the arbitrary way those cases play out, and they should then consider whether we as humans ought to be in the business of making life-and-death decisions at all.”

("OUR VIEW: Alabama lawmakers should pass legislation to put a three-year halt to imposing death sentences or carrying out executions," Birmingham News, April 25, 2011, editorial).  Read more Editorials.  See Recent Legislative Activity.