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Capital Punishment is Pro-Life, Pro Justice
Amarillo Globe-News ^ | 12/24/05 | Samuel G. Dawson

Posted on 12/24/2005 7:00:10 AM PST by FNU LNU

Guest Column: Capital punishment is pro-life, pro-justice

Amarillo Globe-News 12/24/05

By Samuel G. Dawson Opinion

Now that the United States has executed its one-thousandth murderer since 1976, during which time 600,000 murders have been committed (according to the Justice Department), a few comments on the subject are in order. I support capital punishment out of respect for human life.

Sounds kind of weird, doesn't it?

Yet that's the reason the death penalty was instituted: "Whosoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For (here's the reason) in the image of God He made man."

If man didn't bear God's image, it would be no big deal to take his life, as famous social Darwinists who don't have their own system of morality hold.

As the famous atheist/evolutionist Robert Ingersoll, who believed that nothing was inherently immoral, wrote: "Morality is born of the instinct of self-preservation. Murder will be regarded as a bad thing as long as the majority object to be murdered."

And it would be just as bad to take the life of an animal as a human, as PETA holds.

But if we respect the divine image in human life, we must appreciate the foundation of the death penalty: respect for human life.

Many say it's not a deterrent, and I agree - not the way we practice it.

Out of every 1,000 murders in Texas, let's say that 600 of the perpetrators are apprehended, 200 reject a plea bargain and go to trial, 100 are found guilty and 20 are actually sentenced to death.

After all the appeals, 14-24 years later, five of them are actually executed. By then, the victim's family and the witnesses are dead; the judge and jury are all in nursing homes. Nobody remembers who the perpetrator was. Nope, not much deterrence.

But what if punishment were administered much sooner after the crime?

One reliable source said, "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil."

You don't have to believe the Bible to believe this. When you're on a trip and see warnings to reduce speed in a construction area, what does every single driver do when he sees a patrolman parked on the shoulder with the engine running?

Even dim morons slow down, don't they? They know if they blow on through the area at high speed, the punishment will be swift and sure! There is a deterrent value to speedy punishment!

The same thing is true of capital punishment. If carried out swiftly, the deterrent value will return.

When I lived in Washington state, Mitchell Rupe stabbed mother-and-daughter bank employees to death in front of many witnesses. After he was caught with the blood still dripping from his hunting knife, he was found guilty and duly sentenced to death by hanging.

Rupe then used his commissary privileges to buy Twinkies and soon increased his weight to 400 pounds, at which point his lawyer successfully argued that hanging such an obese man would result in his decapitation, which was surely cruel and unusual punishment.

The "Twinkie Defense" worked. Decades later,

Rupe is still alive, and the state is stymied!

I wrote the local liberal rag and suggested the following $25 solution:

"Out of respect for human life, particularly that of Mitchell Rupe's victims, and because our criminal justice system seems to be outwitted by Rupe's weight-gaining ploy, I submit the following economical solution for hanging obese death row inmates.

"Instead of having Rupe stand on the trap door underneath the large eyebolt in the ceiling, let him stand beside the trap door with the noose around his neck. Have the rope go up over a large pulley attached to the eyebolt, then down to a 250-pound weight (sand would do nicely) resting on the trapdoor. The executioner could open the trapdoor as before and, regardless of Rupe's weight, Rupe would be hung as a 250-pound man. Same executioner, same rope, same eyebolt, same trapdoor, same price, except for the $25 pulley. I imagine we could even find a citizen to supply that to the state."

Of course, the Seattle Pravda wouldn't publish that one, and the resulting delay in Rupe's execution hasn't resulted in much deterrence to others.

On the other hand, it shows no more respect for the life of that mother and daughter than if they had been feral cats.

I'm betting my solution would fly in Amarillo.

Every physicist at Pantex would vouch for the mechanics of it.

The Twinkie Defense wouldn't get far in Texas.

When I retired and came back to the Panhandle, all my friends teased, "How come you're leaving God's Country and moving back to Satan's Sandbox?"

For one reason among many, it's so nice to be back where common sense still exists.

Samuel G. Dawson of Amarillo is retired from the aerospace and software industries. He is a frequent contributor to the Other Opinion page.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; News/Current Events; Philosophy; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: capitalpunishment; deterrent; moralabsolutes; prolife

1 posted on 12/24/2005 7:00:12 AM PST by FNU LNU
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The American justice system is not sufficiently reliable for anybody to feel good about the death penalty being part of it at this juncture. We're executing innocent people.

2 posted on 12/24/2005 7:30:01 AM PST by darkocean
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To: darkocean

Name one.

3 posted on 12/24/2005 7:54:57 AM PST by moonhawk (Democrats are to "Diversity and Tolerance" as Islam is to "Peace.")
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To: darkocean

4 posted on 12/24/2005 7:58:33 AM PST by Extremely Extreme Extremist (None genuine without my signature)
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To: moonhawk
The ones who get executed are the ones you can't name as innocent. Nonetheless DNA testing has freed enough people from death rows by now that nobody should have any doubt that innocents are being executed and have been in the past in sizeable numbers.

One flagrant case you read about is that of Randy Seidle of Illinois, and of Herbert Whitlock who is still in prison in a case involving a very flagrant abuse of prosecutorial powers.

5 posted on 12/24/2005 8:05:10 AM PST by darkocean
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To: moonhawk

"Name one."

They can't.

Remember that during the settling days in the west that horse thieves were hung. The fact that is was very easy to steal a horse but with severe and immeadiate punishment made the crime fairly rare. There is direct coorelation between crime and punishment {if the punishment happens in a timely fashion}.

Additionally, rape was also a capital offense. It too was much rarer than we see in todays world.

As a deterrent, it works 100% of the with the perp.

6 posted on 12/24/2005 8:06:20 AM PST by USS Alaska (Nuke the terrorist savages - In Honor of Standing Wolf)
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To: darkocean

I feel GREAT about the death penalty. With DNA it is sure. There are very very few innocent people who make it through the justice system without things being clarified. I am all for the death penalty, and I want it fast, too. Great article.

7 posted on 12/24/2005 8:07:55 AM PST by bboop (Stealth Tutor)
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To: bboop
In theory at least I've got nothing against hanging somebody like Manson or Dennis Rader. Here's the problem: I'd want at least two or three changes to the system before I could feel good about capital punishment anymore.

1. The criterion of guilt should be "beyond any doubt, whatsoever". "Beyond a reasonable doubt" doesn't cut it for capital punishment; you can't unhang somebody.

2. The person in question would have to represent a continuing danger should he ever get loose again. That would seem to eliminate this dude out in Ca. who helped found the Crips for instance. It would certainly not eliminate Manson, Rader, or Paul Bernardo as candidates.

3. I'd want to get rid of the present adversarial system of justice and replace it with some sort of inquisitorial system in which the common incentive for all parties was to discover the truth of the matter.

The biggest problem would be finding some sort of an ironclad and foolproof set of criteria for determmmining "guilt beyond any doubt whatsoever". You'd get judges and prosecutors wanting to tell you somebody like Sarah Johnson in Idaho was guilty beyond any and all doubt, while that is simply less than obvious to all observers.

They expected DNA testing to eliminate the prime suspect in felony cases in something like one or two percent of cases and many people were in states of shock when that number came back more like 33 or 35%. That translates into some fabulous number of people sitting around in prisons for stuff they don't know anything at all about since the prime suspect in a felony case usually goes to prison. Moreover, in a state like Texas which executes a hundred people a year or whatever it is, that translates into innocent people being executed on a fairly regular basis.

8 posted on 12/24/2005 8:15:21 AM PST by darkocean
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To: darkocean
1. The criterion of guilt should be "beyond any doubt, whatsoever".

I won't argue against it, since I've said the same thing myself.

2. The person in question would have to represent a continuing danger should he ever get loose again. That would seem to eliminate this dude out in Ca. who helped found the Crips for instance. It would certainly not eliminate Manson, Rader, or Paul Bernardo as candidates.

And here I will disagree. Manson was more of a "director" than someone who pulled the trigger himself. (He still deserved death.) While Tookie may have killed people with his own hands, how many deaths did he "direct" as head of the Crips, even from his cell (I admittedly don't know, since I have never seen anyone address this.)What kept Tookie in prison so long was his death sentence. I have no problems placing him in the same league as Manson and the others you mentioned (and that Manson still lives at taxpayer expense is an abomination...)

9 posted on 12/24/2005 8:49:53 AM PST by LRS
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Somebody who continues to direct criminal activities from prison is a candidate for the death penalty. At that point, society has no other way to protect itself.

10 posted on 12/24/2005 11:11:35 AM PST by darkocean
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