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The Closure Myth

"The idea that an execution will bring closure or final justice is a mirage. for many families, execution has simply meant reliving the horrific event year after year, decade after decade, through the slow process of carrying out a death sentence."

Shane Claiborne, Executing Grace, p. 20

Image by Thomas Dumortier

South Carolina's death penalty makes false promises to victims about executions providing "closure."

  • Fewer than 1 in 6 death sentences over the last 50 years have resulted in an execution.

  • 60 percent of SC death sentences are eventually reversed as a result of instructional error (45 cases), prosecutorial misconduct (29 cases), evidentiary error (42 cases), and ineffective assistance of counsel (26 cases).

  • For every 74 people executed in South Carolina, approximately one person has been exonerated and released from death row.

  • Surviving families of murder victims spend decades in a legal process that keeps them trapped in their trauma. Alternative sentences would provide legal finality much sooner, sometimes as soon as the trial is over.

In 2020, only 50% of murders in the U.S. were solved. These rates are higher if we look at clearance rates for low-income communities vs. suburbs. This reality leaves surviving families of murder victims fearful and without the finality that they need. Taxpayer dollars would be better spent solving more of these cases than pursuing the death penalty for those already incarcerated.

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