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Capital punishment

Lethal injection room

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Just when you think the United States will join most of the rest of the civilized world and outlaw the death penalty, along comes Donald Trump.

Yes, this latest plan by the man who has promised to "make America great again" flew mostly under the radar when he announced it because of everything else that continues to get in the way.

He outlined his support of the death penalty during a speech on the opioid epidemic in New Hampshire in mid-March, saying that if we don't put certain drug dealers to death, we're completely wasting our time going after them.

He told the audience in Manchester, most of whom stood and cheered, that he would reserve the death penalty for the "big pushers, the ones who are really killing people." How you distinguish between the big pushers and those who are somehow smaller, he didn't say.

It was pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty can't be used when the person convicted isn't guilty of murder. Prosecutors would somehow have to link a drug dealer — which in the case of opioids could include a myriad of people and even corporations — with an actual murder.

But Trump has never hesitated to call for state-sponsored murder. The most famous case dates back to 1989 when five teenage boys of color were accused of beating and raping a woman in New York's Central Park. Trump, then just a New York city real estate tycoon and bona fide playboy, spent more than $80,000 on two newspaper ads imploring the city to "Bring Back the Death Penalty. Bring Back Our Police."

The kids were convicted, but in 2002 another man confessed to the crime and DNA backed up his confession. Had the death penalty been invoked, the teenagers probably would have been executed by the time their innocence was discovered, something that happens all too often in death penalty cases.

When asked during the 2016 campaign whether he wasn't sorry for his tirade, Trump emphatically replied "no." It was the right thing to do, he said, adding that you have to "hate people like this." Besides, more than 90 percent of the people who responded to his ads were supportive.

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Now that's really comforting coming from a man who's now the president of the United States.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel. 

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Dave is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.