Saturday, November 05, 2005


Paul Morrison: Death Penalty Advocate

Paul Morrison, Johnson County Prosecutor, finds himself accused.

Accused of "being soft on crime."

Following the letter and the spirit of Kansas law, Mr. Morrison said recently he would not seek the death penalty for the man accused of the murder of Ali Kemp.

According to an article in the Kansas City Star, the law requires the existence of certain aggravating circumstances to seek the death penalty. As heinous as the crime was, these circumstances were not present.

Mr. Morrison is, in fact, a staunch supporter of the death penalty.

Not only have I seen him from the jury box, I've also heard him express his views on the death penalty in detail.

Mr. Morrison visited my adult Sunday school class to explain to us Christians why we need a death penalty. The week before, the executive director of the local ACLU had visited the class to say why the death penalty is poor social policy.

I don't recall Mr. Morrison advancing the usual easily refuted arguments. Instead, he made two very persuasive points.

Putting a prisoner to death closes the book on the crime in a way no life sentence ever will. The overworked word, "closure" does describe the result for the family of the victim.

In addition, the death penalty is an instrument needed to solve and prosecute horrible crimes. It was an important part of the Debora Green case. Kansas readers will recognize her as the woman convicted of arson and murder of her own two children.

Paul Morrison sought and got the death penalty for convicted killer John Robinson.

I've also had the somewhat discomforting experience of sitting for a jury in a capital case Mr. Morrison tried. I was in the pool of prospective jurors, and watched the proceedings very carefully.

I found the experience emotionally and physically draining. I dreaded the prospect of passing judgment on a young man accused of being an accessory to murder. For three days, the lawyers quizzed prospective jurors about their convictions and beliefs. The ability to vote for a finding that could cause the death of the accused was a critical qualification. Thankfully, I was dismissed on the third day.

Personally, I oppose the death penalty. Despite Mr. Morrison's best efforts to convince my Sunday school class, I still feel capital punishment is morally reprehensible.

Intelligent people of good faith and intentions honestly disagree on this and many other issues. Though I disagree with Mr. Morrison, I recognize him as honest and straightforward.

Kansas now has the opportunity to prove to the nation that an honest man can succeed in politics.

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