The Corner

Punishing Victims to Spare the Guilty

Prosecutors in Colorado haven’t decided whether to seek the death penalty for James Holmes. 

Prosecutors may also seek the death penalty for Holmes. Prior to the judge imposing the gag order, Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers said that decision would only come after consulting with victims and their families.

“If the death penalty is sought, that’s a very long process that impacts their lives for years,” Chambers said.

That’s true, and it would also potentially cost millions of dollars. Why? Because death penalty opponents drag out every case, smothering the system with appeals.

Contrary to what a lot of my hate-mailers seem to think (most recently in response to this column), I respect opposition to the death penalty. Some of my colleagues here at NR are opposed to capital punishment as a matter of conscience and principle. 

But there’s still something ugly and cynical about a strategy that drags out the process as long as possible just so opponents can argue for sparing the families of murdered loved ones the pain of going through it.  I understand dragging the process out as long as you can if you think a convicted murderer is — or might be — innocent. It’s quite another to gum up the works just to have a talking point about sparing the families the pain of a lengthy you made lengthy or to claim you’re interested in sparing the taxpayers costs you have imposed.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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