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When our state legislators convene next year for the 90th General Assembly they have a number of important issues to address.

Chief among them should be Arkansas' death penalty which Attorney General Dustin McDaniel rightly observes is "completely broken". In Lawyer-speak, this means the thing is indefensible in its present form.

The brokenness is due, in large measure, to the lack of availability of drugs for such use. Much like the electric companies during the good old days of electrocution did not want their product used by the State to kill inmates, the Death House at Cummins was outfitted with its own generator for the purpose. The drug manufacturers do not want to be associated with the same purpose and refuse sale. This reduces the recommended drug cocktail to fewer components resulting in possible (probable?) suffering of the recipient.

As Arkansas' 33 Death Row inmates wait for us to deal with our broken system we have an opportunity to stop and think. We can assess and ask ourselves how we wish to be seen. Is capital punishment morally right? Is capital punishment a deterrent to capital crimes? Do we resume killing the killers or do we abandon that path for another? As some day-glo bracelets ask; "What would Jesus do"?

Since we became a nation we have executed about 13,000 people. From the time the Supreme Court allowed executions to resume in 1976, 1373 have been executed. During that same time 142 death row inmates have been exonerated and released. That is nearly a 10% error rate. There are more chilling lists of those unfortunates who were exonerated after their executions. Google it and see for yourself. Even if you have doubts about the innocence of some of those listed, you cannot escape the statistical certainty that we have killed some innocents. In light of these statistics Matthew 25:40 becomes awfully inconvenient for those of us even nominally conscious of the irony. During my nearly 30 year law enforcement career Arkansas has put 27 convicted killers to death. Much like the war on drugs, this measure has not had the desired effect. Nearly every community has had an increase in crime rate. Which then begs the question; if capital punishment is not designed to be a deterrent in the first place, is it then retribution? Don't we give people the death penalty for that?

In Plato's dialogue #335, he discusses with his ever present straight man Polemarchus the pitfall of treating a bad man badly. What we risk is that we might then become bad ourselves. Plato observes; "It is not the property of the just man to treat his friend or anyone else badly." Plato does not make allowance for eye for an eye or even righteous retribution much less righteous indignation. He simply and elegantly makes his case.

As a society of laws we have the categorical imperative to act with good intentions or we risk defining ourselves, and becoming, a society outside of law. The things I believe and act upon as an individual do not necessarily translate into a solution for all of society. As individuals we have the option to act chaotically and we often do so without too much fallout. However, as a society we have to make thoughtful choices. What a society does out of choice can be more impactful because of the broader definition. It says who we are.

Matthew 25:40. And the King will answer, "In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to the least of these Brothers of mine, you did it to me".

Who are we?

Who are you?

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