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If You’re Ever Murdered . . . (Moral Clarity on the Death Penalty)
National Review ^ | 02/21/2012 | Dennis Prager

Posted on 02/21/2012 6:22:05 AM PST by SeekAndFind

I’d like to offer a simple proposal that, if enacted, could generate a great deal of a most precious resource: moral clarity.

It concerns the death penalty.

Opponents of capital punishment argue that the state has no right to take a murderer’s life. Apparently, one fact that abolitionists forget or overlook is that the state is acting not only on behalf of society, but also on behalf of the murdered person and the murdered person’s family.

In order to make this as clear as possible, here is my proposal: Americans should be able to declare what they want the state to do on their behalf if they are murdered. Those who wish the state to keep their murderer alive for all his natural years should wear, let us say, a green bracelet and/or place a green dot on their driver’s license or license plate. And those who want their convicted murderer put to death can wear a red bracelet and/or have a red dot on their license. Just as I have a pink “donor” circle on my driver’s license signifying that, in case I die, I wish to provide my organs to help keep some other person alive, so I wish to make it known that if I am murdered, I do not want my murderer kept alive a day longer than legally necessary.

There are a number of reasons for recommending such a policy.

First, as noted, it is clarifying for the individual. It is easier to take a position in the abstract than when it hits home. It is one thing to oppose the death penalty when others are killed, but if you have to decide what happens if it is you who is murdered, the mind focuses with greater clarity. Before deciding which color to choose, let a woman imagine herself raped and then stabbed to death. And let her further imagine that if this happened, she now has some say in determining what will become of the person who did this to her. She is no longer a silent corpse. Her voice will be heard, perhaps even be determinative of his fate.

Likewise, the woman who truly opposes death for any murderer, no matter how heinous and sadistic his actions, will also now have the ability to speak from beyond the grave. No matter how much her family may seek the death penalty, they will have no say. Any woman — or man — who passionately opposes the death penalty under every conceivable circumstance can now help ensure that at least in his or her own case, a murderer’s life that might have been taken would now be preserved. There is no more direct way to give abolitionists the right to have a say over the fate of a murderer.

Second, such a choice gives great power to the individual. Abolitionists who live in pro-death-penalty Texas, for example, can now have a say on a matter of enormous moral magnitude. And pro-death-penalty citizens living in states that have either legally or de facto abolished the death penalty regain a sense of power over their lives (or, to be precise, their deaths). The whole American experiment has been predicated on giving individuals as much control over their own lives as possible. But this has been undermined in the last fifty years as the state has gotten ever more powerful. Giving murder victims a say over their murderer’s fate would be a small but symbolically significant step in Americans’ reasserting the importance of the individual. It is hard to imagine a more appropriate arena than in determining what happens to the person who murdered you.

As dark as thoughts of one’s own murder may be, we all think about it. And I don’t think I speak only for myself in saying that I would rest just a tiny bit easier knowing that if I were murdered, my murderer might not be allowed to watch TV, read books, exercise, develop relationships with people inside and outside of prison, surf the Internet, sing, listen to music, have his health-care needs addressed, and be visited by loved ones — while I lay in my grave.

And for those opposed to the death penalty, they, too, will be able to rest a bit easier. They will be assured that even men who came to their home, raped all the females in the family, and then set the house on fire with the family inside — as happened in Connecticut a few years ago — would never be killed by the state.

Third, it would be interesting to see if these color-coded bracelets and licenses had any effect on who gets murdered. Clearly, when the murder is a crime of passion, it is hard to imagine that the would-be murderer would stop himself upon noticing a red bracelet or a red dot on a license plate. But crimes of passion are generally not, in any event, punished by death. On the other hand, in murders that could be capital crimes, it is possible (not necessarily likely, but possible) that a would-be murderer (or, even more likely, his accomplice, if there were one) might just rethink going ahead with the crime.

Fourth, choosing which color bracelet or dot would not only forces people to confront their own consciences, it would undoubtedly engender deep discussions with others. To cite but one example, it can surely help singles who are dating. If you’re against the death penalty, and your date drives up with a red bracelet and/or dot on his license plate, you’ll either have a far deeper discussion than you would otherwise have had at dinner, or you’ll spare yourself the time and effort of a date that will probably lead nowhere.

These are some of the arguments for the plan. I can’t think of one good argument against it — unless you’re an abolitionist who is fearful of seeing red.

— Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: deathpenalty

1 posted on 02/21/2012 6:22:09 AM PST by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind
I like this. The only problem I could see is in cases where someone murdered multiple people, and some are pro and some are con (the death penalty).

Still, Dennis Prager is great on clarifying these types of issues, though. I need to remember to check him out more often.

2 posted on 02/21/2012 6:32:37 AM PST by safeasthebanks ("The most rewarding part, was when he gave me my money!" - Dr. Nick)
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To: safeasthebanks
The only problem I could see is in cases where someone murdered multiple people, and some are pro and some are con (the death penalty).

So owhat's the problem? Citizen A is opposed to the DP and is murdered by this man. convicited, he is given life in prison for this crime.

But he is also convicted for killing Citizen B, an ardent DP supporter. He receives the death penalty, and is put to death.

Both victims should be satisfied if thye knew the outcome. Citizen had no responsibility for the DP being administered, so his conscience would be clear. It is nothing to him that the criminal died for killing someone else.

3 posted on 02/21/2012 6:40:13 AM PST by chesley (Eat what you want, and die like a man. Never trust anyone who hasn't been punched in the face)
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To: SeekAndFind

Very practical idea, but moral clarity it ain’t.


4 posted on 02/21/2012 6:43:50 AM PST by Mach9
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To: Mach9

Here is moral clarity: If you kill someone or attempt to kill someone you forfeit your rights including the right to life. Why should someone get a lesser sentence for attempted murder? Their intention was to murder but they just weren’t successful at it. The reason there is so much evil in the world is because society allows it.


5 posted on 02/21/2012 7:20:52 AM PST by albionin
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To: chesley

But if a person goes on a shooting spree in a mall and kills multiple people in the same crime, isn’t there usually just one trial, with “multiple counts”? I don’t think they give separate punishments for the different counts. Just totally an academic exercise of course as (unfortunately) Prager’s idea would never be tried.


6 posted on 02/21/2012 7:23:23 AM PST by safeasthebanks ("The most rewarding part, was when he gave me my money!" - Dr. Nick)
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To: SeekAndFind

I have no idea how I will feel or what I will be thinking after I’ve been murdered.


7 posted on 02/21/2012 7:30:51 AM PST by stuartcr ("In this election year of 12, how deep into their closets will we delve?")
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To: SeekAndFind

Can I have a black dot for “Torture the b@st@rd slowly to death” or a violet dot for “Take him to the hospital, pith him like a frog, and salvage his tissues and organs?”


8 posted on 02/21/2012 7:36:14 AM PST by Little Ray (FOR the best Conservative in the Primary; AGAINST Obama in the General.)
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To: SeekAndFind

i like it... and an outwardly display will allow murderers to choose their victims accordingly...

i see violent crime rates plummeting.

teeman


9 posted on 02/21/2012 7:44:18 AM PST by teeman8r (Armageddon won't be pretty, but it's not like it's the end of the world.)
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To: albionin

Couldn’t agree more. Leaving justice to the victim is about as unclear a moral solution as I’ve ever heard.


10 posted on 02/21/2012 7:47:46 AM PST by Mach9
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To: SeekAndFind

Why is the argument framed through the feelings of the victim? The argument should be framed through the feelings of possible potential victims. Nothing can be done to bring back the victim of a murderer but the death penalty certainly ends the threat that he/she poses to potential victims.


11 posted on 02/21/2012 7:52:09 AM PST by Uncle Sham
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12 posted on 02/21/2012 8:09:53 AM PST by TheOldLady (FReepmail me to get ON or OFF the ZOT LIGHTNING ping list)
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To: SeekAndFind
As dark as thoughts of one’s own murder may be, we all think about it.

Any thoughts I have about violence, up to and including death, are totally centered around my and my loved ones surviving.

As an old Boy Scout I still believe in being prepared, and as a Marine combat vet I still believe in being the first with the most.

13 posted on 02/21/2012 8:22:12 AM PST by onceone
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To: albionin

I usually like Pragers articles, this one seems stupid to me...


14 posted on 02/21/2012 8:34:17 AM PST by goat granny
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To: SeekAndFind
It wouldn't work.

Liberals can never actually imagine themselves as a murder victim since they are trying to help the underprivileged.

It would still be a dispassionate mental exercise to them.

15 posted on 02/21/2012 8:37:54 AM PST by ShadowAce (Linux -- The Ultimate Windows Service Pack)
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To: safeasthebanks

>> I need to remember to check him out more often <<

I don’t think you should, because he recently came out as a strong Romney supporter.


16 posted on 02/21/2012 9:07:37 AM PST by Hawthorn
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To: SeekAndFind

There are many victims of a murder. Depending on you view of the afterlife, the victim is no longer suffering. The loved ones are though, especially if they are also financially hurt too. They are victims too.

Therefore, justice would dictate that they have some say in the disposition of the convicted murderer. It could bring some satisfaction and healing to them. It also offers some empowerment to them.


17 posted on 02/21/2012 9:31:06 AM PST by CPO retired
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To: SeekAndFind
Recently a 60 year old prison guard in this state was savagely beaten to death by two inmates in a botched escape attempt. Interestingly both perpetrators pleaded guilty and opted for a non jury trial. Both were given the death penalty. Neither have indicated they want any appeals and strangely seem anxious to be executed. However with mandatory review by the State Supreme Court and other required minimal appeals it will be at least several years before either of these individuals could be executed and longer if they change their minds and move into appeals on a federal level.

There is no question of their guilt and aside from their confessions there was ample evidence to prove them guilty beyond any doubt. Their crime was heinous and premeditated and met every criteria for receiving the death penalty as set by law. Yet these guys will spend years living it up at our expense before any justice will be served.

18 posted on 02/21/2012 11:02:47 AM PST by The Great RJ ("The problem with socialism is that pretty soon you run out of other people's money" M. Thatcher)
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To: Mach9
Very practical idea, but moral clarity it ain’t.

Why not?

You DO realize that "I don't agree" is neither a moral or legal argument and, indeed, is no argument at all?

19 posted on 02/21/2012 1:35:12 PM PST by Publius6961 (My world was lovely, until it was taken over by parasites.)
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To: Publius6961

It’s not a model of model clarity because its outcome depends not on the act or nonact itself but on the situation (or the people assessing the situation) surrounding the act. How people feel individually about a morally questionable act may fit into the democratic mindset, but it has nothing to do with ethics. Situational ethics is not ethics at all; it’s an escape from ethics. Is it right to cheat on a test if you’ve just GOT to pass this test? No. If murder’s wrong, and the punishment deemed by the state/competent authority—after careful, thoughtful review and consideration—is execution, execution is moral, in the same way that killing an enemy combatant or someone trying to kill you is moral. There are rules about these things that have been discussed and agreed on for milennia. And this particular solution has never, to my knowledge, come up. So, yes, it’s interesting but not moral.


20 posted on 02/21/2012 6:09:57 PM PST by Mach9
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To: albionin

Agree on most of this. Attempted murder must be a lesser offense, because the act hasn’t happened. If we offer the same punishment for a lesser crime, we’re back at the hook in the square.


21 posted on 02/21/2012 6:13:06 PM PST by Mach9
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