Capital Punishment- Why Not?

As long as we, as a civilization have been executing people for crimes that, in some cases, astound civilized people in their sheer brutality, we have also had the argument both for and against the Death Penalty. Many people argue that the process demeans people, bringing the people down to the level of the murderers and rapists that commit these crimes. They also argue that this punishment does not deter people from committing these types of crimes.

These people arguing on the basis of either line of reasoning are wrong in their assessment of this punishment.

Lets take the ” it makes us no better than the criminals” line of reasoning first. The Death penalty is a last option for those criminals who have been deemed to be unable to be rehabilitated, or who have committed crimes that are so heinous that death could be easily considered to be a just punishment. When someone takes a life in the commission of a crime, the very act demonstrates a casually dismissive attitude towards another’s life and liberty, and this dismissive attitude is counter to a civilized society, which depends on a certain level of respect towards another’s life and property.

When there is no respect, indeed when the disregard escalates into murder, society has an obligation to look to the victim first in terms of justice, for the victim cannot speak for himself. The death penalty is appropriate in these cases, because there cannot be a true ” leveling” of punishments, in other words, the punishment should rise to the level of the crime, in order to be called “justice”. This becomes society’s last attempt to level the playing field in terms of this justice.

This is something that juries have, over the many years, given considerable thought to, rarely coming back with what could be construed as a kneejerk reaction in their sentencing of defendants to the Death penalty. The bar is quite high, and various courts have raised the bar higher in past years, some would say too high, but that is up to the courts to decide. As what can easily be seen as the last option in a judgement, people are cautious in how they apply this penalty, and this caution is good, for it says that as a society, we are civilized enough to know that it IS the last option.

Now, as to the canard that this death penalty does not deter people from committing murder and other heinous crimes, well, this is true, because there will always be stupid and criminal people- that is just human nature, and that is not something that any penalty will cure. As Ron White, the comedian said, “You can’t fix stupid.” There will always be greedy people who will rob- there will always be evil people who will kill. This is an unfortunate fact of life, and all the good intentions in the world will not change this.

But one thing is for sure- the people you send to the death penalty will not re- offend. That much is 100% certain. Not a one of these people will bother another victim, and I for one can live with this easily. I can surely live with this option, rather than life in prison, because the death penalty is more compassionate.

What would you consider to be worse- to put someone to death, or keep them in a cage for the rest of their lives? If you said the latter, you are a cruel, cruel person. To live with no hope of ever getting out of the cage- well, I know I would rather die. Taking joy, or even satisfaction out of anyone’s imprisonment is a hard thing to feel, but when you know that there will never be an end to that suffering- well, you wouldn’t do that to a dog or cat, would you? Keep them in a cage with no room for the rest of their entire lives? And then there’s the cost of keeping these people incarcerated, all at taxpayer expense, which I find to be inexcusable.

I have no problem with rehabilitating prisoners, as long as there is a REASONABLE chance that these people will come out and have a productive life, but there truly are crimes that deserve the full weight of society’s judgement, and to try and save these people who are evil, is a misguided attempt at feel- good legislation, and does no one any good.

We can have a discussion on rehabilitating those who might be rehabilitated, but let’s be realistic about what we do and why we do this, and it is not because we enjoy it.

It is because it must be done.

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16 Responses to “Capital Punishment- Why Not?”

  1. Adam says:

    You left off the major and most substantial factor in many folks opposition to the death penalty. While it is indeed cruel and a tax burden to lock a man or woman up for the rest of their life it is more cruel to execute a person for a crime they did not commit:

    “In the past decade, substantial evidence has emerged to demonstrate that innocent individuals are sentenced to death, and undoubtedly executed, much more often than previously understood,” the judge, Mark L. Wolf of Federal District Court in Boston, wrote in a decision allowing a capital case to proceed to trial.

    He cited the exonerations of more than 100 people on death row based on DNA and other evidence.

    “The day may come,” the judge said, “when a court properly can and should declare the ultimate sanction to be unconstitutional in all cases. However, that day has not yet come.”

    Judge Wolf wrote that the crucial question for courts was “how large a fraction of the executed must be innocent to offend contemporary standards of decency.”

    While we can indeed be 100% certain that those given the death penalty will not re-offend, we cannot really be 100% certain that those given the death penalty actually offended to start with.

    This is not to cast such a dark shadow of doubt over the justice system in general. We can for sure punish those we perceive to be guilty of crimes. We just need to keep raising that threshold higher and higher before we can hand out a death penalty.

    • Blake says:

      The threshold is a reasonable doubt, Adam, and only God can have absolutely no doubt.
      This is why being on a jury is such a solemn duty. Luckily, DNA evidence is getting better all the time, so “reasonable doubt” becomes more sure.

    • Big Dog says:

      The error is no reason to oppose the death penalty. The errors are reasons to ensure the right person is prosecuted and to have a high standard.

      I think most people oppose the death penalty because they say it is murder (it is not) and amazingly, they support abortion where 100% of the time the person killed is innocent.

      If there is a crime where there is no doubt who did it then they should receive the death penalty. I have no problem with life without parole so long as without parole means just that and is not subject to a judge freeing up jail space and so long as the death penalty is not removed as a tool.

      If there is doubt give LWP and if there is no doubt as in the murder was video taped or there is a ton of forensic evidence or a confession then give the death penalty.

  2. Adam says:

    I have no problem letting our justice system execute a lunatic like Timothy McVeigh but if evil men like McVeigh would instead have to rot in a prison cell for life at the expense of my tax dollars simply to prevent the possible execution of an innocent person then I say say that’s tax dollars well spent.

    • Blake says:

      I’m sorry, I would have to disagree, but then I am the one who’s mom was beat to death, while the men who did this got off due to “lack of evidence” even thought one of them told me they had done this, so I am somewhat prejudiced in that respect.

    • Big Dog says:

      There is no reason to let a McVeigh rot just to protect an innocent person. It is obvious that McVeigh did it. If there is any doubt then make it Life without parole. Problem is that bleeding heart libs decide that life is cruel and want people released. Yes, innocent people have been executed but far more guilty have gone freee and many of the innocent have been exonerated before they were executed.

  3. Adam says:

    Maybe I’m reading you wrong but I’m not really seeing how you can think those who may have been falsely found guilty of a crime worthy of the death penalty deserve to be executed anyway just because the folks responsible for the murder of your mother were not brought to justice.

    My only point is simply that many death penalty opponents are not against killing those who truly commit heinous crimes. Instead, given the irreversible nature of execution and a growing number of exoneration’s, we have serious doubts about the justice system’s ability to correctly convict offenders.

    • Blake says:

      I understand your point, but given that the level of a convictable offense is that of Reasonable Doubt, and it truly is more cruel to keep someone in a cage forever, and DNA evidence is becoming better, all of these reasons lead me to believe that, while there have been mistakes made in the past, less and less will be made as we go forward.
      I do not want to execute an innocent man either, but there are also evil people who get off on a technicality- is that fair to the victims? It cuts both ways.
      All we can do is the best we can do, but respectfully, my mind will not be changed regarding the death penalty.

  4. Mike Radigan says:

    While not opposed to the death penalty I think a different standard should be in place for sentencing; beyond any doubt. So what constitutes beyond any doubt? In order: DNA, video, multiple eyewitnesses, and confession.

    • Blake says:

      Mike, the standards should always be of the highest possible- but in the end, as I said, it is reasonable doubt- only God can know for sure.

      • Adam says:

        Frankly Blake, your reasoning is sounding more and more along the lines of “Kill them all, let God sort them out.”

        Our justice system does and should always lean toward the idea that it is less wrong to let a guilty person go free than to let an innocent person be charged for something they did not do, especially in the case of the death penalty.

        • Blake says:

          I’m afraid that I will have to let my comments stand as they are, Adam- I don’t know how much clearer I can be.

        • Adam says:

          I don’t think you’ve been that clear at all. You seem to be arguing that it is better to convict an innocent person because of reasonable doubt than it is to let a guilty person go free. That’s just now how our justice system works, thank God. I guess I’ll leave it at that…

          • Big Dog says:

            The standard is reasonable doubt and it always has been. I have less concern for people with the death penalty because it is not used that much compared to the abuses in the judicial system that continue to allow the release of criminals. If people were put in jail for the smaller crimes they might not be on the street committing larger ones.

            The death penalty is already tough to use and there are a lot of roadblocks. Some people have been exonerated and some have been set free because DNA caused reasonable doubt but did not prove they were not there or did not do it.

            The people who oppose the death penalty oppose it because it is the taking of a life. They protest the death of people like Tookie Williams who was GUILTY and there was no doubt about it. He should have (and did) have his life taken.

            If they remove the death penalty then it needs to be in ALL cases. Here is my problem. They want to abolish it in MD but allow it if you murder a cop, correctional officer or some other special person. Screw that. A cop is no more special than my wife and a cop is allowed to carry a gun to protect himself where my wife is not. If they abolish it it has to be for everyone so that the guy who would murder Obama gets the same punishment as the guy who would murder a homeless guy. Then the punishment needs to be life without parole and that means ever.

            • Blake says:

              I would have to agree that disparity in similar sentences is unfair. The law is the law, and if you break it, this is your punishment. To have one standard for one person and another for another person, WHATEVER THE REASON, is wrong. There should be a continuity of justice- it cannot be spotty or lightly applied- justice should have an even hand.

        • Blake says:

          Adam, you seem to say that we can be 100% in having NO doubt- that is impossible- you could raise the ” little green men did it defense”. That could raise doubt, but it damn sure would not be reasonable. There is a distinction, but this is why the bar is raised so high, with so many appeals.