Friday, December 10, 2004

Support For The Death Penalty

Wow, it certainly looks like you have done your homework. You make several credible arguments, unfortunately they are the wrong arguments for this debate.

I will first take a look at the issue of deterrence even though it has nothing to do with the death penalty. You have said that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime, especially those classified as a crime of passion. There is proof to the contrary. Is her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homelandy Security (April 24, 2004) Joanna M. Shepherd of Clemson University said the following: "Modern studies have consistently shown that capital punishment has a strong deterrent effect, with each execution deterring between 3 and 18 murders. This is true even for crimes that might seem not to be deterrable, such as crimes of passions." But as I said earlier I don't necessarily support the death penalty because of it's deterrent effect. I support the death penalty because it serves justice; that is the end that it serves. There are some crimes that are so heinous that justice demands the life of the perpetrator. The English philosopher John Stuart Mills said "Does fining a criminal show want of respect for property, or imprisoning him, for personal freedom? Just as reasonable is to think that to take the like of a man who has taken that of another is to show want of regard for human life. We show, on the contrary...our regard for it, by the adoption of a rule that he who violates that right in another forfeits it for himself and that while no other crime that he can commit deprives him of his right to live, this shall." So Mike, it has everything to do with justice and respect for life, and nothing to do with vengeance or even deterrence.

Let me now address the issue of cost. I agree with what you say, it costs more to put a person to death than to keep them in prison for life, but since when did we put a price on justice? Let me put it another way. Let's say we decide to abolish the death penalty because, as you say, the cost is prohibitive. Can we then also start skimping on the money we spend for incarceration? Would you mind if in the future prisons were simply a large, walled compound where the inmates slept in tents or even on the ground? We don't do incarceration on the cheap and therefore it stands to reason that we will not to justice on the cheap either. In addition, the appeals in a capital case are necessary to insure that only the guilty are put to death.

Finally, for now, let me address the issue of Christianity and the death penalty. You specifically cite the case of the prostitute who was about to be stoned, and Jesus said "Let him without sin cast the first stone." but this story was not an indictment of the form of punishment; rather Jesus was talking about hypocrites. Take a look at Matthew 7:1-5 "Judge not, that you be judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Mike, that is all I have for now. I look forward to your response.


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