Your Fundamentalist-like Support of the Death Penalty Probably Means You Should Recuse Yourself


Prosecutors will be seeking the death penalty for James Holmes, the gunman that killed 12 people and wounded 70 at a showing of Batman in Colorado last summer.

George Brauchler, Arapahoe County District Attorney, has rejected an offer from the defense to allow James Holmes to plead guilty and serve a life sentence. “It is my determination and my intention that in this case,” Brauchler said at a hearing, “that justice is death.”

It seems, however, that Brauchler’s support of penal punishment transcends this particular case. He wrote an op-ed column published in The Denver Post over the weekend in defense of capital punishment, citing it as an essential tool of justice.

“Repealing the death penalty would result in acts similar to those in Newtown, Conn., or the acts of Tim McVeigh being punished no differently than a single murder of one gang member by another… Each murder after the first would be a freebie.”

Wait – what? There are many intelligent arguments in defense of penal punishment, but claiming that the absence of such legislation would yield mass murders is just demonstrably false. States without capital punishment have consistently lower murder rates than those that do, an average of 32 percent lower from the years 1991- 2011.

What’s more, it’s obvious that death penalties don’t prohibit Newton-like massacres—because one just happened in the state where Brauchler is trying to get the death penalty!

To claim that a murderer’s repeat offenses would go unpunished in the absence of the death penalty negates all other forms of punishment dispensed by our justice system. It insults the state governments that lack capital punishment, insinuating that criminals in those states literally get away with murder.

His argument gets more bizarre. He claims that Colorado should continue exercising the death penalty because:

“The approximately 30 capital cases brought in every metro area jurisdiction against white, black and Hispanic men since 1986 demonstrate that our elected prosecutors prudently exercise discretion as to which few murder cases truly warrant the pursuit of the death penalty.”

So, let me make sure I have this straight. Diversity among those sentenced to death means that capital punishment in Colorado is successful? Does that mean that crimes are committed in equal numbers by members of these three ethnicities? I would like to see some numbers backing up that statement.

Brauchler’s efforts to stir up support for the death penalty right before Holmes’ trial is troubling; it certainly gives the District Attorney incentive to see Holmes to the death needle.  This arguably violates Holmes’ right to a fair trial—especially when his mental capacity is in question.

Brauchler’s arguments are weak at best but founded in a supposed concern for justice. But if he truly cares about justice he should recognize his bias and step away from this case.