Nebraska Joins Calgary and Canada: No Defence for the Death Penalty

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Nebraska Joins Calgary and Canada: No Defence for the Death Penalty

Canada has not executed a prisoner for over fifty years, and the death penalty has been abolished for almost all crimes in Canada since 1976 (with the last few remaining crimes eligible for the death penalty removed in 1998). There are few Calgary citizens around today who can remember a time when capital punishment was a real part of our criminal justice system, and we are no doubt a happier city and a stronger community for it.

Our neighbor to the south hasn't been quite as progressive in its thinking when it comes to establishing and carrying out penalties for serious crimes, however, and until recently only the District of Columbia and eighteen of the United States' fifty states had officially abolished the death penalty as a reasonable punishment for those convicted of serious criminal acts. Last week, Nebraska became the 19th state to pass a law reaffirming what we in Calgary have long known to be true: that there is no defence for the death penalty in a society that claims to put liberty, freedom, and justice at the top of its list of priorities.

Criminal Defence Law and Criminal Justice Demand Room for Error

We all like to think we perform our jobs with as few mistakes as possible, and most of us are pretty good at doing so most of the time. Everyone in Calgary, though, from a police officer to a criminal defence lawyer to a janitor to the stars of the Calgary Stampede, knows that errors can occur. When mistakes are made, it's important not only that they are acknowledged but also that they are corrected, and that instead of defending the right to make mistakes we attempt to minimize the damage they can do.

In no area of endeavor is it more important to acknowledge and correct mistakes than in the criminal justice system. If we hold the system and the people within it as standing somehow above the normal human condition, assuming that it is infallible and perfect, we are opening Calgary to the risk of gross miscarriages of justice—a lack of ongoing scrutiny by the public at large and the inability to admit mistakes leaves everyone vulnerable to defenceless accusations and prosecutions that would irrevocably damage the fabric of our society even when carried out with the best intentions. Let those intentions become even slightly corrupted, and there would be even bigger problems.

The death penalty leaves no room for the correcting of mistakes. There are other moral arguments to be made against it, but this is the most significant. Someone who is wrongly convicted of and executed for a crime, whether it is through unjust procedures or simply the lack of an adequate defence, cannot seek any redress for the wrong committed against them. There is no coming back from death; no second chance for the accused or for the criminal justice system that failed them. This is why we should all applaud Nebraska's abolishment of the death penalty.

Calgary Criminal Defence Lawyer Salutes Nebraska's Legislature

David Chow believes strongly in justice, including—even especially—justice for anyone accused of a crime. As such, he is proud to live in an era where the death penalty is being abolished in an ever-growing number of nations, and hopes to see more regions of the US follow Nebraska's lead. Those accused of crimes in the Calgary haven't had to worry about the death penalty for decades, but can still contact a Calgary criminal defence lawyer to ensure they get the just representation they're entitled to.