Capital punishment — supporting the state when it puts people to death

The death penalty is a very fraught subject.  It’s also an ironic one.  Pro-abortion people, the ones who are comfortable with third trimester abortion, can’t stand the death penalty.  Pro-Life people, the ones who think a zygote deserves as much protection as a fully realized adult, support the death penalty.

Or maybe it’s not so ironic.  The difference is the way in which the two sides value life and responsibility.  Dennis Prager explains:

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  • phaedruscj

    The official teaching of the Catholic church defends the zygote as you suggest but I do not think the Catholic church supports the death penalty. Even if the Catholic fauthful do not unanimously and personally hold these views there are still thousands if not millions that oppose both abortion and the death penalty. Just sayin, respectfully. I believe the same would be true of many minorty church goers.

  • Blick4343

    The debate over the Death Penalty is always missing one huge fact: a murderer has already agreed that death is an appropriate penalty for some offense. Cold Blooded or hot blooded murder makes no difference – somewhere in a person’s thoughts, feelings, or instincts is the possibility of death to an offender for them to be able to apply the death penalty to their victim.
    One may argue the investigative and judicial processes, the evidence, and intent in how a person  is determined guilty of murder. That is entirely different than arguing against the penalty. The death penalty has already been established as acceptable to the murderer.

  • 11B40


    The last article I read about California’s death penalty indicated that the state had executed 17 convicted murders and that, during the same period, 57 more had died of natural causes while on Death Row. Not exactly textbook statistics, if you ask me.

    I see the death penalty politics  as a good example of what psychologists refer to as a “determined minority”.  The “antis” won’t quit under any circumstances until they inflict their view on all the other occupants of the state.  I kind of admire the way they got the state to switch from the electric chair to lethal injections because the former was some kind of barbaric and the latter was, you know, nicer.  Then, they went back to court to use the same electric chair arguments against the lethal injections while trying to get medical societies to refuse to staff the executions and to have the drug manufacturers refuse to provide the drugs.  Crafty little devils, they are.

    My suggestion would be something along the lines of having the “antis” staff Death Rows.  It’s easy to be against the death penalty when, as hopefully soon to be former President Obama, would say “You don’t have any skin in the game.” 

  • Earl

    I’m really torn about authorizing the State to kill citizens.  On the other hand, the Bible is quite clear that it’s permissible – probably to avoid a greater evil…private vengeance and all that that entails.
    I would like to have capital punishment available only in situations where physical evidence ties the accused to the crime in a definitive way….no circumstantial evidence cases.  Circumstantial evidence can be very strong, but to me those should be life without parole (and mean it), so that in the rare case where circumstances turn out to be wrong, we can (partially) rectify the situation.

  • MacG

    Blick I have not thought of it in that way before, it is an interesting point.  However the reason the death penalty was suspended in California in the late seventies/early eighties was the Rose Bird court appointed by then Governor Jerry Brown (our current Governor) said that even though someone stabbed another 67 times you could not prove intent.  I kid you not.  I bet that you could find a guy or two on death row that were there in Jerry’s first go round.
    Every so often a guy is found to be innocent after 20 years on death row.  I’m with Earl current cases need to be a solid tie to the crime.  Taking a life is a solemn event even if they deserve it, not to be something gloated over.  Psalms warn to not gloat when your enemy falls lest the Lord remove His hand of discipline.  Of course if they’re dead I am not sure how He could do just that but I think my thought about this verse is one of proper attitude.  
    From a humane point of view whether to use electricity or chemicals I want to raise the point is it humane to lock a free willed human in a cage for the rest of their lives?  Execution by carbon monoxide poisoning may just be the most humane way to go. No pain, no strain, nighty-night.

  • BrianE

    The pro-abortion, anti-death penalty position demonstrates a rather low value of human life.

    As to abortion, the unborn baby is as innocent of the crime of conception, of trespassing in a woman’s womb, of complicating the lives of others as can be imagined. Yet, the unborn child suffers the cruelest of punishments– of being drawn and quartered in the most vicious manner imaginable.

    As to the death penalty, the victim’s life is devalued when we don’t demand the life of the guilty. The anti capital punishment crowd discards the value of the victim and condemns the family many times to a life of never-ending grief.

    Not all crimes deserve the death penalty, but there is a crime, so wanton, so callous, so brutal to society, that nothing short of death is just punishment. I don’t mean to imply that we make light of the decision to execute the guilty, but that the victim’s life is that important to us as a society (and the family by extension) that nothing else is just.

  • Earl

    MacG: In Napa Valley they purge the containers with nitrogen before adding the grape juice for fermentation, and the wine barrels before adding the wine for aging.  In the really big vats, workers enter them for cleaning, and it’s very dangerous, as if the nitrogen isn’t completely gone, the guys can die without knowing anything’s happening until they collapse.  Since nitrogen is 80% or so of the air we breathe, we’re not alerted to it…..  Seems to me that it would be a fine means of execution, just keep raising the % of nitrogen until the condemned goes unconscious and then raise it to 100%.
    BrianE: Well said.

  • Ymarsakar

    I don’t support state executions. I support personal executions.

  • Kevin_B

    That is an excellent video by Dennis Prager.
    I actually used to oppose the death penalty, and I must say I feel it’s not something to be cheerful or excited at, but I no longer oppose it in certain cases, and believe it has a place in societies. 
    There are crimes that we can call “capital” crimes. Crimes that one deserves to die for. Murder (in many or all cases) is a clear-cut example. Murderers have already given evidence of their intentional callous disdain for the value of human life. They have already proven that they see human beings as objects that can be used and disposed of at will and for any given purpose. Murderers have thereby forfaited their basic human rights – LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of hapiness.
    There could probably be a debate on what other crimes (if any) should be eligible to be capital crimes. Should murder be the only crime one can be put to death for? I’m unsure. What other crimes could be so bad they would be punished by death? Terrorism? Well, that one isn’t the most difficult one, I would think. People like Nidal Hasan are terrorists, and have committed in their capacity of terrorist committed murder, ‘terrorist murder’. Nidal Hasan and people like him I feel should be executed. 
    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed wasn’t at the controls of the plains on 9/11, but he did draw up the entire 9/11 plot, as he himself has admitted. KSM did not himself commit the terrorist acts on 9/11, but he was the architect of them. Should he be executed? I think KSM fits the criteria for execution. If a terrorist plot is made, but discovered before it is able to be carried out, and the persons in the plot are arrested, should they risk the death penalty? Less clear-cut perhaps, compared to if the terrorist act is carried out. But I do think terrorists in many cases should be eligible for execution.
    Treason is another one that could be more clear-cut, certainly in times of war and depending on the case. Other crimes could be much more difficult. Manslaughter? Rape? Child-molestation? Drug trafficking? Human trafficking? Et cetera. I’m not sure. It could be contentious.
    I don’t think one should be eligible for execution for, say, stealing a vehicle (although one should certainly go to jail for that), but other crimes are much less clear as to what the appropriate punishment would be. 
    I personally think it isn’t as much a question of whether the death penalty is an appropriate and moral punishment; is it. It is a question, as I have discussed above, of when to apply it. I think there is also a question of evidence. I agree with others here; there should be conclusive, definitive and as strong as possible evidence against a person; there should not be doubt. Hard evidence certainly is ideal, I’m not entirely sure circumstancial should be excluded completely.
    Certainly, today, with all the amazing new developments in science, forensics and criminal investigation, we also have great (and increasing) possibilities to gather evidence, including hard evidence. Certainly, these new methods are often expensive and may require a fairly large number of staff, but they offer great possibilities to determine guilt and prevent wrongful convictions. Perhaps I’m a bit naive, but it seems to be we have more tools than ever before to prove guilt and prevent wrongful conviction.
    The death penalty could also pose a question of method. The method of execution could be a matter of debate. What is the appropriate method? Should we exclude torturous, barbaric and “medieval” methods? I think so. Should we allow torture and extended suffering to be inflicted? I don’t think so. As a method, I would propose shooting people through the head or the heart with a large calibre (perhaps also with a dumdum or hollow-point round), although that could be ‘messy’, or perhaps injection or gas asfixiation.