Sunday, April 18, 2010

Option to Death Penalty

I have long had profound misgivings regarding the death penalty. I don’t argue against it on moral grounds since I do not believe that arguments regarding laws should be made, pro or con, on a moral or religious basis. Laws are (or should be) made only for the purpose of maintaining an orderly and safe community, and arguments regarding their implementation should be limited to that realm.

The imperfection of the application of the death penalty is a powerful argument against it for me, as is the risk of putting to death an innocent man, but in a more general sense the death penalty seems just basically uncivilized. Then, however, someone comes along who is so fundamentally evil and commits crimes which are so horrendous that extermination of that creature seems like a perfectly reasonable act.

Yesterday in San Diego, a guy named John Gardner confessed to raping and murdering three young women, girls, and will be sent to prison for life without possibility of parole. The city will be spared the cost of a lengthy trial by this plea bargain, which was agreed upon in lieu of pursuit of the death penalty, and the families will be able to put their daughters to rest. Without the plea deal, he might have escaped conviction for at least one of the crimes, for which there was no solid evidence other than his confession.

So maybe this is a good reason for the death penalty; having it in place to use as a bargaining tool.


  1. My big problem with the death penalty is not so much the imperfection of application, in that is there a possibility of putting an innocent person to death (not real likely, but the chance exists); but the onerous procedural process involved. Plus the appeals, the reappeals the arguments, blah blah, so that you spend as much time on Death Row as you would a regular sentence.

    There are some individuals so evil and non reformable that society (and the prison system) is likely better off without them in it. Like the aformentioned offender. And yes, I suppose that the death penaly could be used as leverage, and that's not a bad thing either.

  2. Arthur1:26 AM

    If our system required TWO eye-witnesses to the crime, instead of only one (who might have an agenda of his own), it would help a lot. As would requiring some real evidence; people have been sent to their deaths solely on circumstantial evidence.
    Maybe the Hebrews had it right after all. If we followed ALL of their religiously-based teaching, instead of only that part which enabled our own vengeance and violence, it would go a long way toward redressing both of your objections.