Hey, Michigan: The Bush administration doesn’t care what you think. At a hearing in Detroit last week, federal prosecutors sought the death penalty for three men charged with murder in Michigan, a state that became the first in the country to ban capital punishment in 1847. If they are convicted, they will join another man the Bush administration put on death row by aggressively pushing for the death penalty even though it undermines the principles of Michigan law. This push to overrule state law showcases the reckless disregard the current administration has for the principles of human rights and fairness, within individual states and abroad.

From 1988, when the federal death penalty was revived, to when Bush took office in 2000, no death sentence was handed down in a non-death penalty state. President Clinton’s attorney general, Janet Reno, did seek the death penalty under these circumstances in a handful of cases, but the Bush administration’s ceaseless pressure to force through death sentences in states that ban them is certainly unique. According to The Detroit News, there have been a total of eight death penalty verdicts in non-death penalty states since 2000, and there will potentially be three more cases added to that tally should the men from last week’s hearing in Detroit be convicted.

Using federal law is simply a back-door way of imposing the death penalty on states whose citizens are enlightened enough to have outlawed such barbarity. Repeals of the ban in Michigan – which has stood for 160 years – have repeatedly failed, including those proposed as recently as 1999 and 2004. Clearly, Michigan residents have a problem with capital punishment. It is completely unacceptable for Bush to impose his own twisted, backward ideology on states that rejected the death penalty long before he took office – or was even born.

The federal government ignores the fact that the supposedly painless practice of lethal injection can actually go very wrong. Recently, many experts have argued that lethal injection is extremely painful to the person being executed. In fact, their arguments are strong enough that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case this term and will soon decide whether or not ?death by lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

Whether or not the death penalty is cruel and unusual, it is certainly expensive for both the state and the defendant. A 2003 audit in Kansas found that the investigation costs for capital punishment cases were about three times greater than for non-death cases. Trial costs were about 16 times greater and appeal costs 21 times greater. It is even more expensive to prosecute capital punishment cases in Michigan and other non-death penalty states because death penalty lawyers must be brought in from other states.

Most significant, the states that banned capital punishment recognized that killing criminals eliminates any chance of rectifying mistakes in the legal system, which has proven all too flawed. With advances in technology, evidence is frequently found that exonerates death row inmates of their crimes. In 2000, Illinois Governor George Ryan suspended all executions in the state because more of Illinois’s death row inmates had been exonerated than executed. Of the state’s 25 prisoners on death row since 1977, 13 were later proven innocent of their crimes. In one instance, the evidence that led to proof of the inmate’s innocence was discovered just two days before the execution was to be carried out.

Cases like these are clear evidence that, more than simply not serving justice, capital punishment actively threatens it. It has no place in our country and certainly no place in Michigan.

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