Rep. Steve Hickey explained his bill to repeal the death penalty to a House committee on Friday.  Several people, including former South Dakota Attorney Generals Mark Meierhenry and Roger Tellinghuisen testified in favor of the proposal.

Family members of murder victims testified against the bill. Probably the most poignant was that of Lynette Johnson, whose husband Ron, was killed inside the prison while on duty as a guard.

The committee voted 7-6 to defeat the proposal. Other states in the nation are dealing with the same issue. Recently, the Governor of Washington suspended use of the death penalty saying if was unevenly used in his state.

My opinion of this subject has changed over the years. I used to be a strong proponent. Now, I am against it. With our system of laws and protections, it takes too long to execute people. In our state there is a man on death row over 22 years. The man he killed was 22 at the time of the crime. Each time there is an appeal of the death sentence, the survivors are reminded of the horrible loss. We in the media talk about it. The criminal gets to read and hear his name in the media. Another few minutes of fame/infamy.  As tax payers we pay prosecution and defense lawyers to argue both sides of the case over and over again.

Another part of the conversation is the method used to end the life of the criminal. An interesting irony. Two or Three drugs in the "cocktail?"  How much suffering will be endured and how much tolerance do we have for that suffering?

I have not lost a loved one or friend to death by murder. I do not know the people in charge of keeping the worst of the worst in our society locked up.

I do know from news reports and conversations with people who have worked as guards that some llfers and those on death row can't be trusted. They can appear calm and reserved one minute and then become enraged and violent the next, much like wild animals that humans think we can tame, lions, bears, and even some animals we consider pets.

I hope our leaders will revisit this issue. The emotional toll on the survivors, the tax expense we pay, and the time it takes for justice to be done need to be an important part of the discussion.

I mourn the loss when a murder occurs. A part of me would have no problem, flipping the switch, pulling the trigger, or injecting the drugs. I admit, that is my dark side. Fortunately I go back into the light quickly and realize the death penalty does not deter murder. If it did, murders would never have happened when the death penalty was universal here and in other countries.

As you may conclude, I am not against the death penalty for religious reasons. My opposition is based on the tax money, time, and emotional roller coaster the survivors must endure.

We should banish the criminals from life as they know it. Let them live with the consequences of their actions. Maybe some conscience will set in. Maybe not. Either way, we are done with them.

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