Skip to comments.On the Death Penalty
Posted on 09/28/2011 1:23:25 PM PDT by Sherman Logan
Im still getting a lot negative feedback on my death penalty column from last week. Thats hardly surprising (even though it wasnt a particularly popular column here, traffic-wise). What is a bit more surprising is how many people seem to have not understood my point. Ive reread the column a bunch of times and I still dont see whats so hard to grasp.
The gist of my argument is that this emphasis on uncertainty isnt nearly as persuasive as those making it seem to think it is. Death penalty opponents seem fixated on the idea that one wrongful execution demolishes the case for the entire death penalty. Anti-death penalty activists insisted the doubt about Troy Davis cast doubt on the entire system and, by extension, the execution of anybody. Note: I dont think Davis was innocent. But even if he was innocent I dont buy that one mans innocence blows up the case for the death penalty. From my column:
But he proves no such thing. At best, his case proves that you cant be certain about Davis. You most certainly can be certain about other murderers. If the horrible happens and we learn that Davis really was not guilty, that will be a heart-wrenching revelation. It will cast a negative light on the death penalty, on the Georgia criminal-justice system, and on America.
But you know what it wont do? It wont render Lawrence Russell Brewer one iota less guilty or less deserving of the death penalty. Opponents of capital punishment are extremely selective about the cases they make into public crusades. Strategically, thats smart; you dont want to lead your argument with unsympathetic persons. But logically, its problematic. There is no transitive property that renders one heinous murderer less deserving of punishment simply because some other person was exonerated of murder.
Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people including 19 children. He admitted it. How does doubt in Troy Daviss case make McVeigh less deserving of death?
Whether you agree with it or not, I think my argument is pretty clear. And yet, I keep getting email from people who simply restate the argument Im objecting to ONLY MUCH LOUDER. You cant be certain! You can never be certain! etc.
I think thats all nonsense. You may not be able to be certain in some cases, but in other cases its quite easy to be certain. For starters, lets have a death penalty in those cases.
Its a strange thing. I think that opponents of the death penalty have convinced themselves that this uncertainty argument is a silver bullet. If we can just prove one case was wrong, we can through magic or the transitive property prove them all unjust. That was the point of one worst movies of the last decade, The Life of David Gale, the makers of which owe me two hours worth of The Life of Jonah Goldberg.
Now I dont want anyone anyone to ever be wrongly executed. One misapplied death penalty is one too many. At which point opponents of the death penalty say Aha. Then you most oppose the death penalty for everyone.
Really? Must I?
If anything, Im even more opposed to police accidentally shooting bystanders or shop clerks mistaken for robbers. Well we know that happens. And yet, Im still in favor of cops carrying guns. Im against absolutely against all sorts of accidental deaths that are the direct result of government messing something up. Im against Air Traffic Controller errors that lead to deaths, but Im still in favor of flying and air traffic controllers. It is a scandal, given how much we spend on the death penalty and all the endless appeals, for any mistake to go as far as it has. But why is it that the death penalty is the only government function that must be abolished after a single error?
Ultimately, Ive decided that ones attitude to the death penalty is largely faith-based. At the most basic level the decision to support or oppose capital punishment comes from a core first principle, an assertion of fundamental belief. Thats why, I think, opponents invest so much passion in these second-tier arguments. They know shouting You just dont get it! doesnt work. So they put that energy into technical, procedural or abstract issues that dont get to the heart of the question.
And thats why I find nearly all of the arguments against the death penalty insufficient or unpersuasive. World opinion by which most people seem to mean the UK, France and parts of Italy is against us. Okay, who cares? I mean that seriously. Why should it matter? These are our laws, not theirs. And when I hear a European opponent of capital punishment declare were no different than China or Saudi Arabia for keeping capital punishment on the books, that strikes me as more of an indictment of European reasoning skills than of American justice. We dont execute people for their political or religious beliefs. We execute them for first degree murder. Its a big difference.
This blogger, in a very lengthy rejoinder to my column, asserts that I support the death penalty for purposes of revenge since I dont think deterrent alone is a justification. Maybe this is just semantics, but what he calls revenge I call justice.
(Also, as a side note, I find it interesting how so many secular people use fundamentally religious arguments without admitting it. I understand that under Christianity vengeance is the Lords. Well, whose is it in a secular society?).
The best or at least most honorable argument against capital punishment actually proves my point. Many prolifers tell me that they are against the death penalty because they are prolife from beginning to end. Thats great. But thats an assertion of faith.
From my more secular vantage point, the arguments over abortion and capital punishment dont track each other very closely. Theres no trial with an abortion and the life ended has committed no crime. The nature and extent of the states involvement in an execution and a terminated pregnancy are profoundly different. I should note that the Catholic Church at least to my understanding has never seen abortion and capital punishment as anything like the same thing.
Im not saying the seamless garment adherents are wrong to oppose the death penalty. Im saying that the basis for their opposition is grounded in something you either believe or you dont.
Therefore, I must not go on a diet because I might eat a twinkie.
Thnak you for posting this.
It’s kind of like saying that the first time there is a fatal traffic accident, we should close down all the roads and junk all the cars.
Bump! Good post.
We are no longer following the bible on the death penalty. If we did we would have fewer problems and avoid errors. Note the requirement of the witnesses to do the stoning. This should give pause to most witnesses about the importance and responsibility of their testimony:
I. The death penalty is a deterrent against crime.
Deuteronomy 21:21 “All the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.”
II. Under the Mosaic Law, the death penalty was not only permissible but required.
Genesis 9:5-6 “And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.”
Numbers 35:31 “Do not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer, who deserves to die. He must surely be put to death.”
III. Two witnesses were required, that there be no error.
Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15
IV. Biblically, by whom should the penalty be executed?
A. By the witnesses.
Deuteronomy 13:9; 17:7
B. By the congregation.
Yep. And why is it that libtards are so anxious to not only make, but celebrate exceptions if the human being put to death is an unwanted baby or a handicapped woman in a coma?
That some atheist death penalty opponents try to use Christian tenets to argue against capital punishment is annoying and ultimately unsuccessful. Attempting to equate opposition to abortion to capital punishment is absurd when one considers that abortion is the violent (for the baby) killing of an innocent, defenseless unborn infant done at the mothers whim while capital punishment is the killing of a convicted, adult murderer - usually after multiple trials and appeals - and is accomplished with much effort to avoid the criminal being executed to experience any pain. There is simply no comparison.
Good column bump.
This is not a section of the bible about commanding how to execute.
This is talking about how the non-believers stoned Steven.
Do you really think this section is an instruction from God about how executions should be carried out?
I’m pro-death penalty for crimes that warrant it.
But I do think that there should be a way to better ensure that the evidence that is given in a death penalty case is solid.
I don’t want to see people given the penalty because of lazy defence or a prosecutor who wants to make his case so he can run for office.
I don’t support endless appeals, but maybe something like a three judge panel that goes over the case to best ensure that the evidence is solid.
I believe in all states, a death sentances also carries an automatic appeal for the case to get reviewed by a higher court.
OK, but who is the Lord's appointed agent for the execution of justice in this world?
Unless you can afford Johnny Cochrane, you are likely just as screwed in a state sponsored justice system. :)
I think you need something more neutral than that.
Did you expect your judges in your panel to be private hires?
No and I recognize the flaw on that point.:)
But I do think that you’d end up with better death penalty judgements, if a case that results in a conviction, were sent to a panel of three judges that were willing to ask tough questions about the evidence.
You’d probably end up with a lot less appeals and quicker executions to boot.
The argument also falls apart if you consider that ALL justice is fallible. It is not much less of a tragedy to convict someone in error and take away 30 years of their life. Or 20. Or 10. So if we’re going to refuse to apply the ultimate sentence because we may err, how can we rightfully apply any sentence at all?
We administer justice not convinced of our own infallibility but with a faith that Due Process works. In the case of the death penalty, that Due Process is as rigorous as any Man can devise. And it works.
Raycpa, You may also be interested in the various injunctions in the Bible and Torah which can be found at prodeathpenalty.com.
Justice must ultimately prevail, I agree.
But should also be seeking to improve the due process to ensure that when it is rendered, it is the most reasonable judgement rendered.
I think the author was demonstrating the requirement that the witnesses were required to do the death penalty.
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