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Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015

Boldly Going Nowhere

Thursday, May 30, 2002

Outcast Island

In 1973, the Supreme Court declared the death penalty to be unconstitutional. In 1976, the death penalty was reinstated. Since then 767 people have been executed. During that same period, 100 death-row inmates have been exonerated, primarily because DNA evidence has proven conclusively that they were innocent. Statistically, this means that for every seven executions since 1976, one other inmate on death row has been found innocent.

Ray Krone of Phoenix, Arizona, had been convicted of murdering a woman named Kim Ancona. The killer also bit Ancona in the struggle. There were no witnesses at the scene and Krone was at home all night with his roommate. At Krone's trial, an expert claimed that the teeth marks matched Krone. Another expert insisted they didn't match, but the jury wasn't allowed to hear that testimony. Knone was found guilty and sentenced to death.

Ray Krone was on death row for 10 and a half years before DNA tests proved that the saliva found on Ancona could not have been his. The real killer, presently in prison for a similar crime, was discovered through a national DNA database. Ironically, he lived in the house behind the crime scene at the time of the killing. In April 2002, Krone became the one-hundredth person released from death row thanks to DNA evidence. Had the killer not bitten the victim in the attack, Krone would have been executed.

In Illinois, 12 people have been executed since 1977. During that same period, 13 death row inmates were set free. Recently, the governor of Illinois placed a moratorium on executions in his state. He said he couldn't sleep at night knowing there was a 50-50 chance the next person executed might be innocent.

In the USA, the only country in the civilized world that still executes criminals, 38 states have the death penalty. Polls show that 65 percent of the people in this country support the death penalty, down from a high of 80 percent in 1994. Apparently, the thirst for an ultimate revenge is declining.

The death penalty has many obvious flaws. Capital cases cost taxpayers twice as much as incarcerating a person for life. The death penalty is shown not to be a determining factor in preventing capital crimes. Racial discrimination seems to exist since minorities who kill whites are 10 times more likely to be executed than if those roles were reversed. Executing people leads to a lessening of the value of human life, thereby increasing a climate for capital crimes. And worst of all, there is a chance an innocent person will be executed.

There is another way to deal with this problem -- Outcast Island.

Instead of the death penalty, I suggest that death row inmates be isolated on a remote island, far from civilization. Give them building materials, kitchen supplies and tools, and leave them alone to survive on their own. They can trap, fish or cultivate their own food. Instead of being housed and fed, they'll have to learn to be self-sufficient. Their world will be of their own making, perhaps giving them a dose of what they have done to others. A small contingent of armed guards could patrol the island by boat, well offshore, with orders to shoot to kill anyone trying to escape by sea. Escapees running amok in America would be non-existent.

This would solve all the problems. There would be very little cost. It would be humane to the prisoners who could move freely within their own small world, yet they would have to work to survive. And if a person was found to be innocent, he could be retrieved from the island. Outcast Island could also be used for repeat violent offenders, child molesters and anyone else who should be permanently kept from society.

Outcast Island is a perfect solution to a complex problem. It saves money, keeps the scum of the earth isolated and ensures that innocent people will not be executed. Unfortunately, those who make such decisions never seem to care for simple, inexpensive solutions.