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Legal experts debate death penalty and proper punishment

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Amarillo, TX - The use of capital punishment, or the death penalty, continues to be a hotly debated topic across the country and Thursday evening two legal experts in Amarillo joined in on that discussion.

If turnout was any indication, the debate on the use of the death penalty showed the controversy hasn't lost any steam. In fact, it may have only gained more. The death penalty was reinstated in Texas 37 years ago but it still remains a form of punishment not everyone agrees on.

Thursday evening, Potter County District Attorney Randall Sims argued for keeping capital punishment. "It makes absolute sense logically," he said. "It is a deterrent to crime despite what others might say. Statistics back that up."

On the opposing side was long-time criminal defense attorney Selden Hale arguing for abolishment. "Death penalty cases are terribly flawed, because they're always so political," said Hale.

Hale said it costs about $4 million to execute one person, but his reasoning Thursday didn't focus on money, rather the possibility of mistakes in the criminal justice system. "There have been 200 people on death row that we've had to turn loose when we finally find out that they're innocent," added Hale.

"If you make a mistake and put somebody in prison for life, then you can correct it. But if you kill them, all you can say is I'm sorry we made a mistake on that." Sims countered saying capital punishment is only for the worst of the worst and is the only true way to keep those people from re-offending, in society or even in prison.

"I've got a list of 84 people that have been in prison for murder, gotten out and re-offended," Sims argued. "There's no question there's got to be the death penalty available if we're going to protect the people."

Right now Texas has about 300 inmates on death row, and it uses capital punishment more than any other state.

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