Justice served?

Posted: Thursday, March 05, 2009

"It's not a deterrent."

"We don't expect it to pass."

"It's not a distraction."

"The Legislature has far more immediate issues to deal with this session."

"The comfort level has to be built, and the legislation has to be modeled on what the comfort level is of the Legislature."

If this were the game show Jeopardy, the right question would be, "What words were heard at the Judiciary hearing from the cosponsors of House Bill 9, the bill that would institute the death penalty eliminated by the Territorial Legislature in 1957?"

Did people listening around the state actually hear a discussion regarding how 16-year-olds could qualify for execution? Does the work draft really contain a protocol for executing pregnant women? (You might be relieved to know that we -- you and I, the state -- let her give birth prior to killing her.)

I don't know about the individuals in the Judiciary Committee, but I am certain that the comfort levels of Alaskans will not get beyond queasy on this bill.

Our fiscal house is shaky, fuel costs are forcing families and communities statewide to make very difficult decisions. Meanwhile, the Legislature is considering legislation that is not a deterrent, not likely to pass, more expensive than incarceration and not one of the more immediate issues to deal with this session.

The only upside is that as an economic stimulus there is potential because it is expensive (see the testimony from Feb. 23).

Alaska currently has the mechanism to sentence people to 99 years. For some, this is justice served. A wrongful death by the state can never be made right, and the thought that any of us would be expected to grow comfortable with this possibility diminishes us all.

Susan Smalley


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