Even a flawless capital punishment system raises serious ethical questions. But the truth is, the death penalty in America is nothing close to flawless. It is riddled with irreparable problems and needs to be abolished.
How many innocent people is it OK to execute? 50? A dozen? One?
The answer, of course, even among death penalty proponents, is zero. That's why Illinois on Wednesday became the 16th state to end capital punishment. And it's why North Carolina should become the 17th.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said his decision to sign the legislation was extraordinarily difficult. But: "It's not possible to create a perfect, mistake-free death penalty system. ... With our broken system, we cannot ensure justice is achieved in every case."
The Death Penalty Information Center says 138 death row inmates have been exonerated since 1973. At least four of those were in North Carolina. The very real possibility of executing an innocent person is sufficient reason to end the death penalty, but only one of many. The system is arbitrary, with the life-or-death decision hanging on such factors as the quality of the defendant's attorney, the defendant's wealth, the race of the victim and the jurisdiction where the crime occurred.
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