"Death" is a terrifying word. It's a topic we don't like thinking about or discussing. It's an issue that encompasses many others -- religion, justice, science and technology. It's an easy way to bring a cloud to a conversation, yet here at Virginia Tech it seems we have encountered it far too often.
The Virginia Senate has approved legislation that will expand capital punishment. If the bill makes it through the House of Delegates and Gov. Tim Kaine, the death penalty could be used for murder accomplices who don't do the actual killing.
The death penalty has been a controversial issue for years, but particularly in our own state. The United States is one of the few industrialized western nations that still employ a death penalty, but 14 states have outlawed it in their own constitutions.
However, capital punishment is strongest in the South, and Virginia has executed more inmates than any other state except Texas since 1976. Now it appears we are looking to increase that number.
Violent crimes have turned into something citizens in our community have become more aware of in the past few years, with obvious examples of April 16 and the recent loss of fellow student Xin Yang. The question is, what is the appropriate reaction to those who have committed serious crimes like these?
On one side there is the "eye for an eye" opinion. If someone takes a life, his or her own life should be taken. Some families of victims have this reaction because they need closure; they need someone to pay for their loss. Other family members, such as a man who lost a daughter in the Oklahoma City bombings, said watching McVeigh die wouldn't bring her back or end his grief. Does the death penalty make everything better, bring things back to even, or just stir up more hate?
Another question to ask American citizens is how much faith we have in our judicial system. Since 1973, more than 120 people have been released from death row after having their innocence proven -- this is after being sentenced to death.
Nobody could ever know how many people have been wrongly executed. The number of course can't be too large with improved DNA testing and better evidence, but the court system can't be perfect. In a ruling of life and death, it begins to matter a lot more.