Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty

Rep. Brett Harrell’s statement on Georgia’s death penalty

ATLANTA – State Representative Brett Harrell (R-Snellville) today joined with Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty for a media briefing. His statement follows.

“Thank you Marc and thanks to Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty for organizing today’s event. I am state Representative Brett Harrell. I am a fiscal conservative, a Republican of faith and I represent part of Gwinnett County. I have served in the legislature for six years and I would like to share with you today my position on the death penalty both from the standpoint of a person of faith as well as a legislator.

Let me say and be clear, I believe the death penalty is both Constitutional and may be morally applied.

As a person of faith, I believe the death penalty should be viewed from the standpoint of protecting the innocent, rather, than having a primary purpose of punishing the guilty. In our civilized society, in Georgia and in the United States we have means through life without the ability of parole to protect innocent society from the crimes of those that would otherwise be subject to the death penalty.

Also as persons of faith, my friends that are active in the pro-life movement often argue for life from the moment of conception using a Latin term Imago Dei meaning the image of God. Suggesting that the image of God is present from the moment of conception and therefore we should take all means possible to preserve life and not to exterminate the image of God. I agree; and, as I ponder that throughout life and with those that have committed the most heinous, repulsive, despicable crimes – the worst crimes you could imagine – I thought to myself, at what point with this terrible, terrible person, at what point is the Imago Dei, is the image of God removed from that person’s soul. As we ponder that, the answer is clear – it is not. Therefore, as persons of faith, we move forward to protect life and protect the image of God. Therefore, I must conclude that life without parole is the appropriate response that both meet the demands of protecting society and fulfilling our faith of preserving life and the image of God.

As a fiscally conservative legislator, I am often skeptical of governments’ ability to implement efficiently programs to protect the taxpayer’s dollar. Studies from around this nation have proven repeatedly that a death penalty trial is a very expensive process. We see routinely people who sit on death row for well over ten, twenty and in some cases thirty years running up an exorbitant cost to the taxpayer. So, again on a fiscally conservative approach, life without parole is in most cases less expensive, more taxpayer friendly than going through the process of a death penalty trial and taking that through to execution.

Finally, as someone who is skeptical of our government’s ability to implement effective and equitable programs we know that in this regard government has failed as well. Since the re-imposition of the death penalty in the 70’s, 156 people have wrongly convicted, sentenced to death, and later exonerated and released from death rows across this nation – six of those in Georgia. This is a failure of government that cannot be corrected. Therefore, from a fiscally conservative, taxpayer friendly standpoint with a healthy skepticism of government, I must conclude that the death penalty also fails in that regard.

From both a faith standpoint and a conservative fiscal policy standpoint, it is my conclusion that life without the possibility of parole is the proper position, the correct position in the civilized society that we have here in Georgia that renders the need for continuing the death penalty unnecessary.

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Representative Brett Harrell represents citizens of District 106, which includes portions of Gwinnett County. He was elected into the House of Representatives in 2010 and currently serves as the Vice Chairman on the Rules, Regulated Industries and Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight Committee. He also serves on the Transportation and Ways & Means committees.