Sunday, January 30, 2011

Oklahoma or Aljazeera: Which is More Rational?

An online program called Fault Lines has an extended (23 minute), reasonably balanced, and well done video about the death penalty. One of the interesting things about the program is that it is produced by Aljazeera, the Arabic news station that came into US awareness during the Second Gulf War. The quality of the video is such that had they used the narrator from Frontline, and had they published the video anonymously, there would be no reason to believe it wasn't a Frontline product.

Aljazeera focused on the death penalty in Oklahoma. They interviewed, among others, Frank Keating. Keating was governor of Oklahoma for eight years beginning in January of 1995.  He presided over 54 executions. At one point, Keating offered this insight into our justice system:
"Nobody goes to court because they're misunderstood. Nobody goes to court because they're accused of a crime they didn't commit. They go to court because they did something."
Well there you go. According to Oklahoma's ex-governor, not only do we not imprison any innocent people, we do not even take them to trial. Those people found not guilty must be not guilty only in a technical sense, not in an actual sense. After all: "Nobody goes to court because they're accused of a crime they didn't commit."

Keating also offered this insight.
"In my case, any recommendation, unless it had to do with guilt or innocence, I ignored. I always brought the defense attorney in, the prosecutor in. The question I asked was 'Did this person do it?' In no case was the answer 'No.'"
I believe I'll look into the executions that took place under Frank Keating's watch. Unfortunately, I suspect I will find some egregious cases.

Stay tuned.