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Eleven Days Left to Live

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Hello Again Friends,

So, here’s another thing that David Powell–the man who will be killed in Huntsville on June 15th–has set me to thinking about.

People believe or they don’t believe in the death penalty for a whole bunch of reasons, many of them based on their personal and religious values.  And that’s a very good thing–since the conversation we’re having here is whether or not the government should have the right to kill its own citizens.

But I actually think the very best argument against the death penalty might have nothing to do with morality.  It might have to do with government incompetence.

Now, I happen to be among the last of the New Deal liberals.  I actually really believe that government can be a positive force in people’s lives.  I mean, social security and unemployment benefits and medicare, though completely inadequate and frustrating and flawed, do provide pretty convincing proofs of the advantages of the government’s involvement in everyday life.

And I was also in favor of passing the recent health care reform bill, as completely inadequate and frustrating and flawed as it was.

But of all the arguments against health care reform, the one that I found most persuasive was that government bureaucracy screws up everything it touches, and do we really want politicians and bureaucrats making decisions about our surgeries and prescription drugs?

That really hit home with me, folks.  I mean, just because I have a certain amount of faith in the potential of government, doesn’t mean I actually trust OUR government.

Maybe that’s because I’m Texan, and I think there’s a libertarian streak in your average Texan that’s about a mile wide.  But it’s also because, if the people who’re gonna be running health care in any way resemble the folks working at the post office, the IRS, or the DMV, then we’re all in big, big trouble.

I mean, would you let the IRS do your taxes for you?  I wouldn’t.

And if I have a big check or important document to over-night mail, then I Federal Express it.  Because this month alone, my local post office has lost not one, but two important packages of mine.

And they were very, very rude about it.

Also, I’ve filled out my census form twice, and the government STILL keeps sending people to my front door asking me to fill out another one.  “Oh well, sometimes they get lost in the mail,” the last census worker told me, which I do not doubt.

So, I tell you, I have BIG concerns about the government’s judgment in deciding which of its citizens to kill.  And these concerns are not unfounded, especially because, since 1973, 138 Americans who were convicted of murder have been exonerated—found to have been innocent and wrongly convicted.  In fact, here’s a list of them:

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innocence-list-those-freed-death-row

And as most people who read the “Observer” already know, it’s extremely likely that Texas executed an innocent man in 2004.  And here’s a big, fancy article from the “New Yorker” about that:

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/09/07/090907fa_fact_grann

These mistakes give me pause, friends.  Because if one of the arguments in favor of the death penalty is that human life is incredibly precious, then I’m not certain how you can proceed confidently with a system that’s imprisoning and killing innocent people.

Now, David Powell has taken responsibility for his crime—the murder of police office, husband, and father Ralph Ablanedo—but nobody really knows what happened on the night the crime occurred. Partly because Powell was stoned out of his mind that night.

But also because proven prosecutorial misconduct worked to obscure the truth.  And that misconduct, along with other legal issues, caused David Powell’s first two sentences to be overturned.  That’s why he’s been awaiting execution for THIRTY-TWO YEARS.

And no matter which side of the issue you’re on, any American taxpayer has to be frustrated at the enormous waste—of time, money, and life—involved in taking the same man to court three times for the same crime, partly because elected officials worked to prevent the truth from being discovered in the first place.

I mean, this is serious business folks.  Life and death.  In this particular case, it’s the life of David Powell, who has eleven days to live.

Love Y’all,

Robert

Here’s an excerpt from a movie about David Powell:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgOMUOsHQMs

And here’s a website devoted to his case:

http://letdavidlive.org/

And here’s a link to Amnesty International’s clemency campaign on David’s behalf.

http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/index.aspx?c=jhKPIXPCIoE&b=2590179&template=x.ascx&action=14311

Contributing writer Robert Leleux is the author of two books, The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy and The Living End: A Memoir of Forgetting and Forgiving.