A few days ago we had a few flakes of snow fall in our local area. I posted on Facebook that we all needed to run to Kroger’s an buy our five gallons of milk and three loaves of bread.That is a phenomenon that I will never understand. Anytime there is the slightest risk of snow people go to the grocery. One of my contacts posted “I used to laugh at people who went to the store because of snow. Then I experienced the blizzard last year when the boys were stuck home for two weeks and we couldn’t get to the store. i was pretty sure my children were going to turn into cannibals. Now I watch for snow in the forecast and run to the store.”

So okay. I admit there is a reason to be prepared for bad weather. People should go to the store if it is going to be bad for a few days. Now this would make sense to me if they were buying bottled water and canned goods and pantry staples. I am mocking the folks that buy milk and bread. I mean they are getting skim milk even. It needs to be full 4% milk fat to sustain you, people.

So the whole above thought process got me thinking of how people look at various situations in different manners. What to some people is a pleasant chance to sit at home with the kids or snuggle up in front of the fireplace with a friend can be seen as a dangerous risk to others. You know things like starting a family. can be the same. There are some people who see it as a chance to have a spouse and kids. Others see it as a chance to give up hope of achieving anything other than being a parent. But I digress.

It is very easy to see that two different people can witness the same events and have two different  versions of what occurred. Doubts and questions of “expert pressure” are not exclusive to America. That leads me to the true point of this blog post. Why do we continue to exact the ultimate punishment on people convicted of heinous crimes? Especially when that conviction is based on nothing more than eyewitness evidence. I am not defending people who are rightfully convicted of such crimes as child molestation or elder abuse or rape and murder. I know it is hard to not want to exact vengeance on these people. I will admit that part of me thinks we should bury them under the jail. The hardest thing about making prison visits is dealing with those emotions. I can sit with someone who has abandoned his family and neglected to support them. I can deal with an addict who has ruined the lives of friends and family. But those persons that have taken a human life or stolen the innocence of a child are difficult to sit across the table from and counsel. A large majority of them proclaim innocence and recently I am beginning to wonder how many are telling the truth.

We have come to trust Medical Examiners and coroners to give us the facts. Many of these people aren’t even doctors. This can create some extreme circumstances. There doesn’t seem to be sufficient oversight either. While some cases receive national attention, others fall through the cracks. Too many to list them all here. While in most cases of life, errors and mistakes can be overlooked, this is a place where it cannot. Even one mistake is too many when exacting the ultimate price. Despite great philosophical differences, supporters and opponents of the death penalty agree on one basic fact: the government should never put an innocent person to death.

While prosecutors complain of the CSI Effect and when juries rely too much on forensics there are going to be mistakes. In 2011, The Innocence Network exonerated 21 persons; in 2010, 29. When you look at those numbers compared to the number of 1,605,127 prisoners that state and federal correction facilities had jurisdiction over in 2010. But to the families of the wrongly convicted, one is too many. To society and the families of the victims, it should be too. Justice is not justice if it does not exact its penalties on the guilty and not the innocent.

What closure comes to a family at the execution or conviction of a person when it is later revealed that the conviction was in error. Are old wounds reopened? What happens to the state of normality that has returned to their life? Deeper, what happens to the sense of accomplishment of society in deterring crime and bringing justice? Much has ben said about the effects of wealth  on representation and I won’t, as a white male, attempt to explain the feelings of Blacks or Hispanics have towards the legal system. But when there are such biases possible and appellate courts fail to remedy wrongful convictions , how can we trust twelve jurors or one judge to hold the power of life or death over another human being?

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