A Calgary Defence Lawyer's Thoughts on Capital Punishment

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A Calgary Defence Lawyer's Thoughts on Capital Punishment

Last week, Nebraska's legislature passed a law abolishing the death penalty, overriding a veto by the governor of that state and ensuring that the ten people currently on "death row" in the state will serve life sentences instead of being executed.

This might not seem like big news here in Calgary; Canada officially abolished the death penalty in 1976, and hasn't executed anyone since 1962. But for this criminal defence lawyer, any change in the law that better serves the interests of justice is something worth celebrating.

The death penalty makes it all but impossible to ensure that justice is served. Not only is it unjust for the government to call murder a crime and then put people to death, but it removes any chance for a review of the accused's case in light of new evidence or a bungled prior defence. It makes the decisions of Canada's criminal courts irrevocable, and any system that cannot be questioned and corrected is inherently unjust.

I consider my duty as a criminal defence lawyer to be a sacred one, not due to any divine laws but because the inherent morals of mankind and our mutual society demand it. There must be protections for those accused of crimes, and those protections must include a knowledgeable advocate who is able to fight on the behalf of those facing legal penalties.

With the death penalty in play, my ability to advocate for my clients is severely limited, and the entire system becomes even more unfairly imbalanced. That's why I stand strong with Nebraska's legislators in their rejection of the death penalty, and encourage the rest of the US to follow suit.</p.