weather icon Clear

A conservative case against the death penalty

There’s a compelling conservative case to be made against the death penalty, but it’s not what you think.

Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas has introduced AB237, which would abolish the death penalty in Nevada and reduce the sentences of those on death row to life without the possibility of parole. It’s up for a hearing Wednesday in Assembly Judiciary. In Nevada, prosecutors can only seek the death penalty for those convicted of aggravated first-degree murder.

The most common arguments against the death penalty aren’t that persuasive. As Ben Botkin reported Sunday, death penalty opponents often cite the cost as the driving reason for eliminating it. Death penalty cases cost about $1.3 million, while a non-death-penalty murder case costs $775,000. That’s not an insignificant amount of money, but government’s primary job is to secure the life, liberty and property of its citizens. That’s always going to cost taxpayers. We shouldn’t allow criminals to expect lighter sentences because society is too cheap to ensure a just consequence.

Another objection is that Nevada doesn’t have the drugs it needs to perform executions. But this is a logistical hurdle, not a valid critique of the death penalty as a policy. It’s also possible to overcome. Other states authorize executions by hanging or firing squad.

Then there is the objection that the death penalty is “cruel and unusual punishment.” But capital punishment was common in colonial America, and today’s methods of executions limit pain as much as possible while ending someone’s life.

While those arguments don’t sway me, this one gives me pause: Government failure and inefficiency is all around us. Consider Obamacare or our public school system. Liberals act like government programs and mandates are magic bullets to fix our societal ills, but conservatives understand that good intentions don’t prevent unintended consequences. Now add in human error, the lack of accountability that comes from being immune to market competition and how political pressure can steer behavior away from what is just.

This is the entity our society is supposed to believe will be right about seeking to end someone’s life 100 percent — not 99.9 percent, but 100 percent — of the time?

That objection has made me consider and reconsider my personal support for the death penalty. It’s why I think Nevada’s approach finds the right middle ground. While government is far from perfect and a thorough appeals process is needed, justice does demand some criminals — Dylann Roof, Timothy McVeigh, and Javier Righetti come to mind — pay with their lives for their crimes. That’s why the death penalty should be an option, but only used sparingly.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Nevada section each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
May-Brown describes why some with disabilities need the subminimum wage - VIDEO
Eliminating the subminimum wage will end training and work opportunities for some members of the disabled community. Instead of doing something productive, they would be relegated to adult day care. That’s according to Tracy May-Brown, Opportunity Village’s director of advocacy, board and government relations.