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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, December 3, 2005

1,000 executions show need to stay resolute

One-thousand can be a landmark figure, a daunting milestone unless you're counting men and women put to death by state governments in the name of vengeance.

Then, 1,000 executions is a number worthy of shame.

The United States crossed the dubious threshold this week, nearly 30 years after the Supreme Court of the United States ended a 10-year moratorium and restored the death penalty.

From Utah's Gary Gilmore, chronicled by Norman Mailer in "The Executioner's Song," to Kenneth Lee Boyd of North Carolina this week, the death count has advanced to four digits.

But the number shouldn't be seen as some broad acceptance of the practice.

The Death Penalty Information Center says instead of expanding, the law has actually contracted, with a 50 percent decline in executions since 1999.

In part, it's due to things like the advent of DNA research, which has exposed how a rush to judgment often leads to errors that in turn lead to the reversal of death sentences where the condemned have been found innocent. That fact has helped reduce the overall national support for the death penalty, though a majority still support it.

It's the reason Hawai'i must remain resolute against any revival of the death penalty here.

The thousand-marker isn't a call for the state to jump back into the killing game, but a sign that we've been right all along.