Republicans Across Country Join Fight To End Death Penalty

Criminal justice reform advocates celebrated this week when Oklahoma Governor Stitt granted clemency to death row inmate Julius Jones. Jones, who was convicted of murder in 1999, has always insisted on his innocence, and Gov. Stitt commuted his sentence hours ahead of schedule.

Stitt deserves to be congratulated. And yet, the fact that he left it on his own is proof of a failed system. That the death penalty still exists is a failure of policy, given how gravely it is marked by errors. Besides the botched executions, we cannot forget that more than 185 people have been released from death row due to wrongful convictions.

And as Conservatives, we must fight this costly and uncontrolled government power that is shrouded in secrecy.

Indeed, we are. While the media may tout liberal celebrities celebrating the commutation of Julius Jones and others like him, across the country Republicans are playing a leading role in the state’s efforts to end the death penalty. They bring their conservative principles and common sense to help end bad outdated politics and move states towards smarter, more sane criminal justice systems.

For example, Utah’s Deep Red lawmakers are considering ending the state’s death penalty. Governor Spencer Cox, who previously revealed his support for the death penalty, now says he is ready to “reassess” his position on the issue. He is joined by Utah County Attorney David Leavitt, another Republican who has said his office will no longer seek death penalty prosecutions.

As Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, also a Republican, pointed out, the risk of executing an innocent person is always present: “If a pilot was only good 90% of the time when the aircraft landed. ‘plane, we’d say that person shouldn’t be flying, “he said. Meanwhile, Utah County Republican Commissioner Amelia Powers Gardner cites fiscal discipline as a reason to repeal the sentence of death. “I’m a budget conservative,” she said. “I like to keep taxes as low as possible. When it comes to the death penalty, not only are we responsible for law enforcement, but we are also responsible for paying for defense and prosecution. And it’s a very expensive process. “

In a rare case of agreement, the American Civil Liberties Union and some conservative religious groups have established similar positions on the religious rights a death row inmate should have in the execution chamber. Sister Barbara Battista speaks at a protest against the death penalty in front of the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana on August 26, 2020.
Michael Conroy / AP Photo

And that doesn’t just happen in Utah. There is a national tendency for Republican-controlled state legislatures to rethink capital punishment motivated by conservative fiscal, moral, and cultural values ​​that should lead us to oppose the death penalty.

Virginie repealed the death penalty in March 2021 with bipartisan support. Pennsylvania, Kansas, Wyoming, Kentucky, Georgia, Montana, Washington, and Ohio all had Republican-sponsored bills this year, with a total of 40 Republican sponsors.

In Ohio, a political windward state that has turned very red in recent election cycles, former congressman and now state representative Jean Schmidt and Senator Stephen Huffman are the main Republican sponsors of the law to end the death penalty. They are clear that the death penalty contradicts their conservative beliefs.

Huffman expressed his thoughts from a moral point of view: “There is a being who should judge [a] life and it is God. It shouldn’t be up to us to put them to death and be the judge of them, ”said Huffman, while Schmidt acknowledged the impact of the death penalty on people of color and the disadvantaged. economic. “We recognize that people of color, people with less means, are more likely to end up on death row than people with means or higher education,” Schmidt told reporters.

Utah and Ohio stand ready to build on their momentum to end a death penalty system that depletes resources, stranded family members of murder victims, and leaves no one safer. And the Conservatives are at the forefront of these efforts, exemplifying common sense in the midst of complex issues. Passage of these bills would bring much needed progress in the area of ​​criminal justice reform policies.

We all want fairness, security and efficient government spending. When you look closely at the death penalty, it is clear that it does not meet any of these standards. Republicans concerned about these principles are building a national trend against the death penalty for others to follow, and these efforts are to be recognized and applauded.

There have been 23 states that have eliminated the death penalty. Utah and Ohio have the opportunity to etch their names in the history books as agents of change. I hope they will maximize this moment, and many more will follow.

Demetrius Minor is a preacher, lawyer, relationship builder, and writer. He was director of coalitions in Florida for Americans for Prosperity, where he worked in partnership with the NAACP.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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