Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why you should be against the death penalty.

This isn't new information. Texas executed a man who was innocent and there were compelling reasons to believe he was at the time but Gov. Perry took the path of least political resistance and ignored them. In doing so he fell into the unavoidable political trap here that confuses fundamental human decency with being "soft on crime".

The irony in much of the public's attitude towards the death penalty is that it has strong support among conservatives who generally assert the government isn't capable of doing anything effectively, but they evidently never pause to consider the implications of granting the state the right to take its own citizen's lives. These are the kinds of intellectual contradictions conservatives can't work thru because the concepts are mutually exclusive and they're unwilling to concede either position.

These kinds of errors in prosecution are unavoidable, humans make mistakes. So we can count as a certainty that this has happened in the past and it will happen again. Are we really willing to run that risk? Isn't our legal system predicated on the assumption that it is better for a guilty man to go free than an innocent man be prosecuted without merit? It is, until we start executing people. You can let a wrongly accused man go free, until you kill him.

That cinches the deal to my mind but even beyond that it seems to be a poor kind of punishment. Texas has been executing people in blase bunches for decades now you can be sure that people aren't breathing any easier or feeling less afraid because the state is constantly killing people. It's sheer vindictive retribution and it doesn't even do a particularly good job in that respect either.

It seems to me that if you're interested in making someone suffer it is the knowledge of what they are losing that generates the most emotional pain. Yes death row inmates know they are going to die and that's enormously stressful but I think that's a relatively easy out compared to the crimes we're talking about. Death frees them from the implications of their actions but the surviving victims live with their loss the rest of their lives. That is not equitable justice, its a political posture.

Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people and gave up his life for it. He got off easy. I would much rather he had ticked off every second of the rest of his life in an isolated cell with full and constant knowledge of the autonomy he had lost. If capital punishment were overturned I think someone like McVeigh would suffer more slowly rotting away than spending a few moments strapped to a gurney and being released from his confinement. And the state wouldn't be killing innocent people either.

No comments:

Post a Comment