Extraordinarily heinous crime almost always revives calls for the death penalty.
Some Iowa lawmakers already had ginned up the death penalty rhetoric after authorities discovered the bodies of Elizabeth Collins, 8, and Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 10, last seen riding their bicycles July 13 in Evansdale, Iowa.
Iowa Sen. Kent Sorenson, R-Milo, says he’ll propose reviving Iowa’s death penalty in response to the cousins’ deaths. He reasons they might be alive if the abductors knew their own lives were at stake for this awful crime.
Then the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., fueled more death penalty support. In the face of such inexplicable evil, it’s understandable that some seek a clear response — any action — to register disgust, even if most of these murder sprees end with a suicide.
The death penalty always seems effective to many law-abiding Americans and lawmakers. But to desperate, often drug-addled criminals, the death penalty is just one more consequence in a lifetime of ignored consequences.
Countless studies dismiss the crime-fighting power of the death penalty. More studies affirm it costs as much or more than life imprisonment.
If more proof is needed, simply look in Illinois. When in force, the death penalty had no deterrent effect. Then Republican Gov. George Ryan ordered a moratorium in the face of mounting evidence of false convictions.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has supported a death penalty, but wisely acknowledges it lacks support among state legislators. “I like to focus on things that have a realistic chance of being approved,” he said earlier this month.
We’re thankful an Iowa death penalty has no chance of passing. Any momentary human satisfaction derived from executing the most violent criminals doesn’t offset its legal, ethical and moral implications.
We’re still among those who take guidance strictly from the Sixth Commandment, which never came with an asterisk.