By Maureen Faulkner
Why should a murderer who violently and willfully took the life of an innocent person be allowed to keep their own life? This is the question I have posed to innumerable people since my husband was murdered over 30 years ago. I have yet to hear a single answer that has rang true or moved me.
My life experience and personal interactions with victims of violent crime has shown me that there are evil violent animals living among us. They break into our homes, kidnap, rape, torture and murder our children. They slaughter our defenseless elderly citizens to steal their often meager belongings and in growing numbers they wantonly gun down our law enforcement officers.
Yet, as one of his first orders of business newly elected governor, Tom Wolf, has said he will impose a moratorium on executions and Senator Daylin Leach will introduce a bill calling for the repeal of capital punishment in Pennsylvania. I can say without any hesitation they are dead wrong.
The only real way a society can express its revulsion at any criminal behavior is through the punishment it metes out. Execution of our worst murderers demonstrates that first-degree murder – especially of a law enforcement officer or child – stands alone among all crimes. And while the Death Penalty may offend the personal or moral sensibilities of a small few (there is 65% support for the death penalty in Pennsylvania) killing murderers is the only way to teach how terrible murder is.
Should the governor prevail, murderers who otherwise would be on Death Row will receive a sentence of Life without the Possibility of Parole. Instead of sitting alone in a cell thinking about what they have done and awaiting their execution these sub-humans who warrant no rehabilitation will spend the rest of their days in one of Pennsylvania’s notoriously soft prisons; watching cable TV, taking art classes and working out in the gym.
The death penalty also serves a vital utilitarian purpose for law enforcement. In innumerable cases, murderers who were otherwise uncooperative have been willing to bargain for their life by giving up the location of their victim’s bodies; bringing at least a sliver of closure and peace to the victim’s loved ones.
Supporters of the repeal will likely voice their grave concern that the state might execute an innocent person. I share their concern. However, I also live in the real world where, despite exhaustive efforts by anti-capital punishment groups to prove otherwise, I know of not a single case in America in which it can be proved that an innocent person has been executed since 1976.
The arguments in support of perpetuating capital punishment in Pennsylvania are many, but for me the question to be answered remains the same. Why should a murderer who violently and willfully took the life of an innocent person be allowed to keep their own life?
Maureen Faulkner is the wife of slain Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner, who was killed in 1981 by Mumia Abu-Jamal whose death sentence was reduced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in 2011.