To my mind, John Kerry is worst sort of death penalty opponent. For years he’s solidly against capital punishment regardless of the crime, including terrorism. When it becomes politically expedient, however, he’s suddenly pro-capital punishment when it comes to terrorists.
When asked about his “evolving” position on terrorism, Kerry said,
I oppose the death penalty other than in cases of real international and domestic terrorism. We know we have put innocent people to death; 111 innocent people have already been released from death row. As president, I’ll enforce the law but I’ll also have a national moratorium on federal executions until we use DNA evidence to make sure those on death row are guilty.
Right, because of course it would be impossible to make a mistake and wrongly put to death someone convicted of a terrorist act. Not. It’s obvious, for example, that Tim McVeigh was guilty of the terrorist attack on the Oklahoma City Federal Building, but nonetheless his trial was marred by serious instances of FBI misconduct.
Apparently juries are faulty except when they’re considering terrorist cases, in which case this problem is just swept away.
And, of course, DNA evidence may exonerate some individuals but it cannot with certainty establish guilt as Kerry implies. Though, as I’ve pointed out before, this is one of the inevitable misunderstandings that will lead to DNA evidence being used as an argument in favor of the death penalty.
In writing the Democratic National Committee’s platform, the platform committee took the easy way out — they simply eliminated any mention of capital punishment at all. The previous three DNC platforms, by contrast, had strong pro-death penalty language. Dukakis was the last anti-death penalty presidential candidate and Carter the last anti-death penalty president.
This is not, by the way, the first time that Kerry has altered his death penalty views to bend with the political winds. Kerry has called for a moratorium on the federal death penalty and advocated for giving defendants access to more resources to prove their innocence.
But in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, Kerry voted for the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. That law placed a number of new obstacles in the path of death row inmates trying to appeal their sentence, including limiting such convicts to just a single habeas corpus appeal.