Emotions hard-wired by evolution
The death penalty is an emotive issue because it goes to the heart of what we as human beings think about ourselves, about who we are and the meaning of our lives. It is almost impossible for anyone to be neutral on the issue of capital punishment.
Capital punishment has been around for as long as we can tell, as have war and other varieties of violence.
Anger and the desire for retribution, like the “fight or flight” responses, have been part of the human experience since homo habilis first struggled to stand upright on the African savannah some 2.2 million years ago, and are hard wired into our brains for evolutionary reasons.
One possible reason for the existence of the desire for retribution or revenge is that it helped to bring cohesion to early human groups, as it promotes an “us and them” ethic.
The question now is whether or not these emotions and desires are still needed? Do they indeed still serve humanity?
Law, Religion and revenge.
One of the most famous sayings about revenge, at least in Western culture, comes from St Paul's letter to the Romans (12: 19, KJV): “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” This in turn is a paraphrase from Deuteronomy (32: 35 KJV): “To me belongeth vengeance and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.”
On the face of it these two quotations contradict quite directly the lex talionis as found in Leviticus (24: 19 – 21 KJV): “And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him; Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again . And he that killeth a beast, he shall restore it; and he that killeth a man, he shall be put to death.” Similar injunctions are contained in Exodus 21, especially verses 24 and 25.
Lex talionis refers to a code of justice in which the punishment for an offence is identical to the offense. The Code of Hammurabi, the sixth Babyonian King, was such a code. The following are some examples of the sorts of offenses and punishments listed in the code, which dates from around 1790BCE:
- If anyone ensnares another, putting a ban upon him, but he can not prove it, then he that ensnared him shall be put to death.
- If anyone brings an accusation against a man, and the accused goes to the river and leaps into the river, if he sinks in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river proves that the accused is not guilty, and he escapes unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser.
- If anyone brings an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if a capital offense is charged, be put to death.
The even earlier code of UR-Nammu, from about 2500BCE has similar injunctions:
- If a man commits a murder, that man must be killed.
- If a man commits a robbery, he will be killed.
But this code does not exactly follow the Lex Talionis model, as some offenses are punishable by fines:
- If a man knocks out the eye of another man, he shall weigh out ½ a mina of silver.
- If a man has cut off another man’s foot, he is to pay ten shekels.
- If a man, in the course of a scuffle, smashed the limb of another man with a club, he shall pay one mina of silver.
- If someone severed the nose of another man with a copper knife, he must pay two-thirds of a mina of silver.
Jesus of Nazareth famously and emphatically contradicted such formulations: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” (Matthew 5: 38 – 41 KJV).
And again He said in Matthew 7: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
What is revenge?
Revenge is a poison meant for others that we end up swallowing ourselves. Vengeance is a dark light that blinds all who seek it. The untroubled soul knows there is no justice in revenge. The untroubled soul knows that to seek vengeance is to seek destruction. - Buddha
According to the Wikipedia article on revenge, it is “a harmful action against a person or group as a response to a real or perceived grievance.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revenge retrieved on 14 March 2010.)
The problem with it is that while it might give the person taking revenge some temporary satisfaction, in the long run it simply leads to further “harmful actions” as the person against whom revenge is taken now has a grievance of their own to avenge. And so the “spiral of violence” begins, and is is a vicious cycle which seemingly has no end, unless someone makes the conscious (and brave) decision to stop it.
The “spiral of violence”, a phrase now in common use, was first coined in 1970 by Dom Helder Camara. It is a metaphor for the meeting of violence with violence, in Camara's writing in a social sense, but it can easily and usefully be applied also to individuals.
Blood feuds and the rise of the Cosa Nostra are the result of the search for vengeance and are typical examples of the spiral of violence.
In personal relationships the spiral of violence often starts with a perceived insult or wrong perpetrated by another. This lets the individual feel bad, feel attacked and personally threatened. The natural response is to defend against the perceived attack, which the other perceives as an attack on them against which they defend, and so the spiral gets going and gains a momentum of its own, and the longer it goes on the more difficult it becomes to stop it. Peace becomes a distant dream, and each player in this vicious cycle feels justified, each feels within their rights to carry on defending. Indeed, it is often a matter of honour, a duty, to keep up the momentum of the spiral as it winds ever downward to greater and greater violence and injustice.
This deadly spiral can destroy individuals, families, clans, nations, and if it is not stopped, it will destroy humanity. That is why it is so important to bring reason into the situation.
The death penalty – what is it for?
Arguments in favour of the death penalty usually cite deterrence as the most important reason for capital punishment. The jury is still out, as it were, on whether or not the threat of execution really is a deterrent, but in the research I have done into the literature on it the balance seems to be in favour of the death penalty having little use as a deterrent. Statistics in the US seem to show that those states which still maintain executions have a slightly higher homicide rate than those states which do not. Common sense would indicate that crimes of passion, murders committed in the heat of the moment do not allow the perpetrator time for reflection, so thoughts of the possibility of execution are most likely not going to have any influence on their actions. Pre-meditated murders are most likely committed by people who have factored in the possibility of execution and have considered the risk acceptable, and so again the possibility of execution is not likely to sway them.
The other argument frequently used by those in favour of the death penalty is the permanent removal from society of people with evil intents. There are surely other ways to ensure that such people are taken out of society and prevented from doing further harm.
So what is the death penalty for? I think it is there simply to satisfy people's need for revenge. It is there simply to carry out the lex talionis, and as I have tried to show above, this will simply start a new spiral of violence. One has to ask, does this in any way advance society or the people who comprise it?
Acting from the desire for revenge is allowing primitive motives to overrule reason. It is a throwback to a time when human life was deemed a part of nature “red in tooth and claw” and actually has no place in modern society.
In his essay “Reflections on the guillotine” (1957) French writer Albert Camus wrote: “Bloodthirsty laws...make bloodthirsty customs.”
“We French knew it in the in the past,” he continued. “And may know it again. Those executed during the Occupation led to those executed at the time of the Liberation, whose friends now dream of revenge.”
Another powerful argument against the death penalty is the issue of mistaken judgement. It is well known that many people have been exonerated and found to be innocent, if they were lucky, just before being killed, others after they had already died. It is a very grave thing to put a person to death wrongly.
The final argument against the death penalty is the issue of arbitrariness. As Rich Miller wrote in the Chicago Tribune of 22 October 2009 (http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2009/10/deathrow.html): “One of the strongest arguments against the death penalty – after the argument that our courts have the unfortunate habit of convicting innocent people from time to time – is that it's arbitrary. Even in cases such as these in which there's little doubt of guilt, research shows that the difference between life and death can be such factors as the race of the victim, the county in which the crime occurred and the income level of the defendant.”
When in March 2011 Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, after weeks of painful deliberation, signed the Bill abolishing the death penalty in his state he said: “If the system can't be guaranteed, 100-percent error-free, then we shouldn't have the system. It cannot stand.”
How is it possible for Christians defend the death penalty, especially in the face of Jesus's of-repeated injunction to his followers not to judge, and not to seek revenge?
Camus, not himself a believer, also asked about Christian support for capital punishment: “”The unbeliever cannot keep from thinking that men who have set at the centre of their faith the staggering victim of a judicial error ought at least to hesitate before committing legal murder.”
Finally, is it possible to teach people that killing is wrong by killing? That is the worst kind of “do as I say, not as I do” kind of admonition.
Indeed the death penalty only further brutalises an already brutal situation and does nothing of value for society.
The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are by Tony McGregor who hereby asserts his copyright on the material. Should you wish to use any of the text or images feel free to do so with proper attribution and, if possible, a link back to this page. Thank you.
© Tony McGregor 2010
Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on November 20, 2014:
"Allowing primitive motives to overrule reason" sums it up perfectly. Thank you for this well-written and well-reasoned hub. Yu have summed up the case against the death penalty very well.
Sanxuary on July 09, 2014:
If I was a victim I might want revenge. In reality I just want protection from evil people. How many times were more victims created until we locked them up. Did the serial killer and the rapist stop. I find that revenge is lacking in law enforcement and are legal system. The main goal is to protect people and to be rid of problems.
Sanxuary on March 18, 2013:
Only in murder do I agree with the death penalty although child rape is definitely a close second, especially more then one offence. I think we need more then circumstantial evidence in order to impose the death penalty. Still banishment, a cell with no human contact is still a good idea. I believe that God did give us this small amount of time to determine our choices in life and that is why its critical to not take someone else’s. Still I would have no problem seeing the end of a serial killers life and overwhelming evidence can support the fact that some people can not be saved with out living in fear of them should they exist.
xizej on February 27, 2012:
i don´t agree with deatn penalty for the same reasons that you mentioned, for another hand i understand who defend it´
existence, so let society kill the worst elements because
the planet is overpopulated with hunger people and someday
we eat each others
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 07, 2011:
Dimitris - ha! You almost had me there! Thanks good friend for the witty and intelligent comments (who could expect anything less from you?).
Love and peace
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 05, 2011:
Nifty - thanks for the thoughtful comment. The proof as you say needs to be extremely high - too many innocent people have been executed.
Thanks again for stopping by.
Love and peace
De Greek from UK on April 05, 2011:
A year on, I have just re-read this and it is as intelligent as I remember it to be then. I refer, of course, to my comment :-)))
No, joking aside Tony, this is a wonderful article :-)
nifty@50 on April 02, 2011:
Great hub tony! My feeling on the subject is somewhat mixed! Capital punishment is indeed a deterrent, if to no one else, the person being executed (the will never kill any one else). I do believe that it gives closure to the victims family. The reason I believe it should be used in only very rare circumstances, is because there is always a chance that an innocent person could be executed by mistake and that is too high of a price to seek justice.
There are some murder cases that involve multiple murders rape & or torture, that a life sentence just isn't enough. I would be in favor of capital punishment in these cases, but the burden of proof should be extremely high.
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on November 12, 2010:
Niki - thank you for your wonderfully kind words. I really appreciate that you took the time to visit and comment.
Love and peace
NikiiLeeReyes on November 09, 2010:
Wow; I am -- Wow. I had to save this as a favorite; This really is insightful. Adequate; Eloquent, wonderfully delivered. I love to learn more about History; thank you for sharing.
You're very resourceful; this actually gave me some insight. I think I need to go edit my piece lol. I'll be back--soon.
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on September 27, 2010:
50 Calibre - I am humbled ny your honest and thoughtful comment, for which I thank you sincerely!
I am also very grateful indeed for the interesting links. There is just too much evidence that innocent people suffer far too often because of the bungling of those who are supposed to administer the justice system. It seems to happen all over.
Love and peace
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on September 27, 2010:
Jason - I have gone to your Hub on this subject and left a comment there. Thanks for this comment.
Love and peace
50 Caliber from Arizona on September 21, 2010:
Tony, I've circled the block a time or two here on H.P. and have come to know a bit about your feelings on some issues. That being said, I have to tell you that you've done a fine job researching the topic at hand, and presenting it well.
I personally do not support the death penalty, and would refuse to play part if called to serve as a juror in a trial that could possibly result in the death penalty. Here in the states, often, men are convicted of crimes of all sorts just due to their lack of money to buy a decent attorney. It's been just shortly back I read an article about the crime lab of just one state and a huge amount of convictions of folks, out of which 3 or 4 had been executed, but the cases were being re-opened in light of the fact that shoddy work on evidence had been done or not done at all.:
That in it's self is all the reason I need to NOT support the penalty. I have other reasons as well and the teachings of Christ is the main one and I consider it enough as well.
I hear folks speak out against abortion and turn and say yes to the death penalty. That makes no sense at all to me. It bears yet another question, if one aborts a life, should they face the death penalty?
It's a clouded topic in my mind after serving as a Marine, were we right to be there at all, in my later years I say probably not. I sensed not great filling of victory when Sadam Hussien was hanged after being caught and convicted. It settled nothing the war continued on and still does. I know the result of the capture and killing of any of the leaders of these terrorist cells has changed little if anything at all. If Bin Laden was caught today and killed it wouldn't shorten the battle for even a minute.
It is a crazy world and it seems that folks have hardened their hearts toward each other, just sad, 50
Jason R. Manning from Sacramento, California on September 18, 2010:
You have your hands full with this subject, well moderated might I add. There are many parts of the old system which was much easier to decide versus the cloak of modern society hiding the viciousness that has become normal. I have a very different take on the majority who are against the death penalty knowing full well the great intentions propagated by them. However, this is reality and willing others to be nice to everyone are for visionary Utopist.
I had to cut the rest of my response and decided to turn it into another hub. Once I hit page two, I knew that this was not to be taken lightly, nor should it. I do thank you and this hub for re-enforcing my position and the need to further this debate.
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 24, 2010:
Larry - from me you won't "catch hell" - I'll just agree to differ with you. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your views.
Love and peace
Larry Ray Palmer from Macon, Missouri on April 24, 2010:
I know I'm probably going to catch hell for this but I am actually strongly in support of the death penalty. I think it dissuades criminal actions because people will think twice before committing crimes that incur the penalty. I also think making a convict wait ten years and go through tons of appeals is wrong and a huge waste of tax payer money. I'm from the tall tree and short rope crowd. If a person is convicted of a violent crime, hang them and be done with it.
Still, you presented a good argument for your side and it was well written so I can respect that. I did enjoy reading your views.
Just my thoughts on the subject, Larry Ray Palmer
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 22, 2010:
Gryffon - I respect your honesty and your position. Thanks for your kind words and I too look forward to continuing conversations with you!
With really deep respect
Love and peace
gryffon on April 22, 2010:
Tony, I see that the nest is very well stirred up. You've done a good job with this hub. It's great to get all these differing opinions without all the vehemence I've seen in other hubs.
I still must stand on my side of the fence and support the death penalty. While I understand your position and respect your reasoning, I just can not find it in myself to agree to paying for a person to be removed from society for the rest of their natural lives. If we could still get some actual use out of them for the duration, I could see it. But... hey, the system is not perfect because the ones implementing it (namely, US) aren't perfect. But until we find a method that works for everyone, I guess that we'll just have to agree to disagree.
Looking to converse again on another topic. Thanks for your responses. Very well thought out.
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 19, 2010:
Jane - thanks for your comment and especially for the GBS quote. Love it and surprised that I haven't seen it before.
Lynda - thanks for your encouraging comment. Have responded to your email, thanks!
Thanks for dropping by Jane and Lynda.
Love and peace
Lynda Gary on April 18, 2010:
Another excellent article. It belongs in traditional print. Which prompts me to send you a(nother) email...
Jane Bovary from The Fatal Shore on April 17, 2010:
An *eye for an eye* is too brutal for me. I've gotta go with Bernard Shaw on this one, whose quote below sums up my objections.
"Assassination on the scaffold is the worst form of assassination because there it is invested with the approval of the society. It is the deed that teaches, not the name we give it. Murder and capital punishment are not opposites that cancel one another out but similars that breed their kind.."
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 17, 2010:
Blackreign - thanks for dropping by and commenting. I value your input.
Love and peace
blackreign2012 on April 16, 2010:
I believe there is a difference between Karma and revenge. For example revenge would be super glueing your cheating husband's penis to his stomach while he sleeps. Revenge is intricately planned out, the person's or person's lay in wait to "spring the trap" With Karama only Through your actions good or bad can set certain things in motion that can have good or bad consequences. If a guy is out here murdering innocent people then death is the only option. showing him/her the mercy they showed their victims. Paying for them to sleep, eat, and shit for twenty+ years doesn't seem like the best answer either. It's a fine line because unfortunately our "just us" system is horribly out of balance so true justice can't be obtained. So I guess it's all in how you percieve the issue. Nice hub; loved it. ~hugs~
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 16, 2010:
Micky - thank you so much, my friend. I appreciate your kind and supportive words.
Love and peace
Micky Dee on April 16, 2010:
Death is final. There is no rehabilitation. The death penalty has surely been given too often to the wrong people. It's a finality that has to be taken without any doubt. It has to be weighed heavily! Thanks!
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 15, 2010:
Thanks for the comment. Just a question - why?
I appreciate your dropping by and commenting and God bless you.
Love and peace
Wbisbill from Tennessee USA on April 15, 2010:
Thanks for this well written hub! Thumbs up. However, I feel that to keep some sort of death penalty available is necessary. The issue is very complex.
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 15, 2010:
Ethel - it is a complex and difficult issue, no doubt about that. I would maintain that the justification for the death sentence is revenge. That is the oly one that is real, if we are honest about it. Then the question becomes, is revenge a good thing? And my response is that it is not. Taking revenge only adds to the already brutal situation and feeds the spiral of violence. So in the end the death penalty is self-defeating, as well as being dehumanising.
Thanks for dropping by and sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate it very much that you did.
Love and peace
Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on April 15, 2010:
My views on the death penalty have changed somewhat with age. For me so much depends on if we know without a shadow of a doubt that the right person has been convicted.
I have written a couple of hibs about murders in my town and have been contacted by the relatives. When you hear the brutality that the victim suffered, the death sentence feels justified.
I still have mixed feelings though.
Andrew from Italy on April 08, 2010:
You are definitely right, and usually the main drive to change is fear of consequences. Here in Italy there are almost no consequences and so criminals do their job almost undisturbed. And every day they are spreading more. No one would start a fight with Mike Tyson, a lot will do with an elder one. And, even if you are right in giving chances to change, an apple tree will always give apples, it will never give pears. I mean once a "light" criminal has been given a couple of chances he should have had enough, because every chance given means another crime done. Otherwise the risk is ending like Italy were it's pretty common to have Gypsies women having more than 100 names, and this means 100 crimes and been caught 100 times. Yet they are still free and allowed to do their crimes. :)
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 08, 2010:
Thanks for the comment, Hypnodude. I appreciate you coming by.
I agree that restitutive justice is more positive than retributive justice, which I guess is the main thrust of this Hub. And indeed innocent people need to be protected from those who would harm them.
Can a wolf be transformed into a dog? Well I actually would think so if the wolf was trained from birth. I don't really know though. What I do know is that people can and do change, given the opportunity and the motive. If we were all stuck and unchangeable there would be little point to life.
Thanks again for dropping by.
Love and peace
Andrew from Italy on April 08, 2010:
This is quite a controversial and interesting issue Tony. Well, I have to say that in my opinion the Code of Hammurabi was far better than a lot of legal codes of these days. At least if you accused someone, or wrongly judged someone, you had to repay the damage caused. How many times this happens today? I won't give you an explanation on how this goes in Italy, but I guess you can imagine.
Anyhow I guess this goes hand in hand with the concept of prisons: while I think that most of criminals should be given a second chance, especially for those "light" crimes, prisons' main goal is not to "reeducate" criminals, but to keep criminals away from "good" people. And possibly at the same time to have them to repay their damages to the society. Working hard. Otherwise, as it is today in many "civil" places, prisons are like boarding schools where criminals take a rest before going back in the society making damages.
To compare with sheep farming watch dogs and fences are to keep wolves away from sheep, permanently. Because without fences and dogs who stops wolves? The wolves themselves? And is it possible to transform wolves into dogs?
Btw I love wolves, who are much better than a lot of human beings.:)
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 07, 2010:
Gryffon - I'm not sure that I fully understand your argument, but let me have a go! Thanks for the detailed comment, I appreciate that you took the time.
First point - a human life is not something that can be just discarded the way an unwanted implement or tool can be thrown out. Every human being, even the junkie, the rapist, the murderer, has human rights simply because they are human. If you are a Christian, each of these people is made in the image of God. That is, as far as I know, what Christians believe. So you discard a person, in a way you discard God. I'm no theologian but that seems to me to be the case.
You say that in his law God advocated the death penalty. If you look at the passages in which this is stated, all in the Old Testament, by the way, death is called for in the case of murder, but also of a lot of other things as well, for which I don't think anyone in their right mind would see as punishable by death today. And Jesus, as you pointed out in your previous comment, specifically argued against the death penalty: "You have heard it said ... BUT I say" - do not judge, let the person without sin throw the first stone, etc, etc. So I don't think we can assume Jesus would support the death penalty.
The victim, although dead in a murder case, does still have a voice, as you say. Their voice is embodied in the judicial process.
Death by murder is usuall a horrible, gruesome thing. My brother in law was severely, brutally assaulted in his flat and later died in hospital as a result. I had the task of going to clean up his flat afterwards, so you certainly don't have to rub my face in it for me to see the horror of it. I know it at first hand. It was sickening.
Unfortunately the perp has never been caught, I believe because my brother in law was gay the police didn't put much effort into finding him. But that's another story. My point is I would love the perp to have heard what a lovely person he had killed, what a gentle friend he was to me, kind brother to my wife, and loving uncle to my children.
What I would not have liked,had he been caught, was for the perp to have been executed, to have added another death to the whole sorry business. That would have served no purpose.
My wonderful brother in law would not be brought back, nor would his memory for me be any better if the person who killed him was also killed. Not in any way at all.
And I don't believe it is a Catch-22 situation at all. The way to deal with criminality is to have a justice system that works efficiently, without corruption and without vindictiveness. We need a system that is firm, just and fair. And police that are also efficient and uncorrupted.
If criminals know that the likelihood of getting away with crime is almost zero, then they will think more carefully before they commit a crime. And we need to work for a society that places a high value on justice and equity, where people are valued above status, or possessions.
Killing people legally will not serve to build such a society, just as little as killing people illegally will.
Execution decreases the value of life rather than increasing it. That's my view.
Thanks again for coming back to continue the discussion. I value that.
Love and peace
gryffon on April 07, 2010:
I guess that it comes down to different perspectives or perceptions. Since the phrase "out of sight, out of mind" seems appropriate, let's look at it like this. My taxes pay for a facility to house and contain people who have, for various reasons, decided not to observe the Law. They provide a place for them to sleep, eat, and exercise. These taxes also pay for their medicine, clothes, bedding, reading material, tv, phone, computers, etc. They pay for personnel to watch, protect, and care for these prisoners. We do this because in order to live in society, we have to agree to these measures to protect that society from those who would do it harm.
Now, like I said, our taxes provide for this facility. This facility is usually out of the way from our normal everyday lives. It is somewhat, as they say, "out of sight". Somewhere where we are not likely to see it every time we go about our living.
So... what if we instead did this. Your taxes will provide the very same things mentioned previously, only they make it YOUR responsibility to keep them. Meaning a small facility is built on your property to house the prisoner where they will be fed, exercised, medically cared for, and watched over for the entirety of their confinement. They will have a guard for each eight hour shift, you will provide the meals for the prisoner, a doctor or physician will be on call for your prisoner should they become ill. They will have all the amenities that they are afforded now. Only it will be in your backyard. Lots will be drawn for the offenders and your lot is a prisoner who is 19 years old, found guilty of two counts of murder in the first degree and sentenced to two life terms without the possibility of parole. He is ill mannered, ill tempered, abusive and severely disrespectful. It is painfully obvious that he can not and will not be rehabilitated and become a productive member of society. He is your charge. Should you die before he expires, the responsibility of his charge will pass to whosoever takes possession of the estate. If no one is willing to take possession, it will automatically pass to your eldest living child.
I'm not trying to be vindictive and rub it in your face. I'm trying to bring it home to a personal level, certainly to put it right before your face so as to SEE it.
We have, in a manner, tucked the inconvenient conveniently out of the way.
I also think that people in general, choose not to see that there are those who refuse to function in society in an acceptable manner. They still look for the good in others. That's commendable, but there comes a time when we have to accept that it just isn't there any more.
That's not to say that I do not value life. I do. But I also place a value on the worth of life. I do not consider a junkie's life with as much value as say a bricklayer, or a carpenter or a car salesman. That's just me. That's MY opinion. I do not speak for anyone else. Does that mean that we just kill off the junkie? No. There is still a possibility that they will turn their life around. But there does come a point where I will write them off. My choice is a more Draconian method than others. Again, that's just me. I'm not a hoarder. I do not keep things around in the hopes that I will someday find a use for it. If I haven't used something in three months, out it goes. It's taking up space for something else I can use.
Someone once asked me concerning the death penalty, "What if it was your son they were going to execute?" Well, I most certainly wouldn't want that to happen. But at some point we have to realize that no matter what, we are solely responsible for ourselves. As much as we may wish, we cannot take the burden of someone's responsibility upon our shoulders. We must each answer for our own actions.
There are times when I believe that the victim becomes lost in the controversy. After all, they are dead and gone. We are the ones left to deal with the situation. But that that doesn't change the fact that the victim still has a voice. And they have a right to be heard.
And then, I think that we, as a society, have become soft where death is concerned. Today in most countries, we read about death or hear about death, but rarely do we see death in our daily lives. Back in the frontier days, death was an unwelcome companion. Our children died of diseases more often, accidents were more prone to lead to death, people died younger, life was more dangerous. Now we are distanced from Death in that we rarely have to deal with an untimely death at a personal level.
Over all my point was that in His LAW, God advocated the death penalty. Now I do not think that we are a great society because we have the death penalty. I mean, how humane is it to take a life in the first place? Most criminals who act that way are far from humane. Their victims are in total fear or abject terror, praying for someone to help them or for this person not to do what they appear to want to do, hoping that they will see another tomorrow. Yet the criminal takes their life in a violent, vicious and gruesome manner.
So from their perspective, if they could fight back, knowing (or at least believing) that it is either "him or me", are the victims justified in killing the perpetrator?
If you answer 'yes', then I ask you what is the difference in having society carry out that action for the victim who was unable to at the time of their demise? The fact that there are two lives lost instead of just one? Why hasn't the criminal forfeited his right to life by murdering and getting caught, yet the robber forfeits his right to the money he just stole if he gets caught? Neither one had a right to take what they took.
I personally do not look to the death penalty as a deterrent. I see it as an answer in response to the crime of murder. The purpose of any punishment is to be a response to the breaking of the rules or laws. Otherwise why have rules or laws in the first place?
All in all, we have a catch-22. In order for the death penalty to be a deterrent, it needs to be inhumane, cruel and gruesome. It needs to be public. It needs to be swift and harsh.
But how do you do that and not insight the primordial emotions of Man for blood and violence? It seems that we are stuck riding the tiger so to speak.
But it is what it is and until someone comes up with a more perfect way of dealing with the situation, I'll stick with what we have now.
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 07, 2010:
The Dahmers (and Madoffs) of the world are a problem but there are so many of them that killing them all would just leave the seats in parliaments and the presidential palaces around the world rather empty, don't you think? LOL!
Seriously though I know this is a difficult issue and really needs to be explored and debated more. I just again wonder about relative costs - the cost of keeping them alive in prison versus the cost to our human psyches and societies of killing them. It's something of an imponderable, but I think the cost to society and our psyches is actually way too high. Cheeper to keep them in jail.
Thanks for the comment my friend and you keep yourself well now, hear?!
Love and peace
ralwus on April 07, 2010:
I think Bernie Madoff should be drawn and quartered along with many others of his kind. That said I am inclined to believe not one punishment has ever broken the chain of murders, robbery, rape etc. Prison is the place, but that is very expensive, so just kill off the worst of the lot quickly. What to do with the Jeffrey Dahmers of the world?
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 06, 2010:
Gryffon - thanks for the detailed response. In your first few paras I think you actually stated the case against the death penalty quite well, especially "He's talking to those people who, in their pride or boastfulness, claim to know the heart and mind of someone who supposedly committed a crime. They claim to know "The why". Only God knows why. So they are claiming, albeit foolishly, to be like God, which is a big no-no." Exactly! A great statement of the foolishness of the death penalty!
You other points don't add up to much of an argument for the death penalty either. If it's just a matter of the cost, then I ask again, how do we put a price on life? How do we put a price on a humane society?
Arguing against the death penalty is not arguing for lawlessness. In fact, I think that a society without the death penalty is actually placing a bigger responsibility on its citizens to maintain law. WE are all responsible and can't without doing ourselves an injustice, hand over that responsibility to someone else. If a person is executed, they are executed in our name. I personally want no part of that.
I'm not sure that I'm being very lucid at the moment - it's late at night here and I'm very tired. I hope I have done some justice to your interesting comments, though!
Love and peace
gryffon on April 06, 2010:
A very well thought out, reasoned hub on a very controversial subject. So controversial, in fact, that some people are elected or not elected to office based upon their opinion of this very subject. Good job! That's the good news.
The bad news is I support the death penalty. And I hope my reasons come across as well as Tony's.
First - Religion. One of the reason's for religion is a moral compass. It helps guide an individual through society, hopefully safely, past the gray areas not covered by Law. One thing that I've always noticed was that people who oppose the death penalty quote "Thou shalt not kill." as an argument. It is the LAW handed down by God to Moses for His people. What people fail to recognize is that while it certainly states the do's and don'ts, it also states the penalties for not observing those Laws. "Honor thy mother and thy father." If you don't, you're dragged to the city gates and stoned to death. Says so in the Law. "Thou shalt not work on the Sabbath." If you do, you're dragged to the city gates and stoned to death. Says so in the Law. And of course, "Thou shalt not kill." If you do, you're dragged to the city gates and stoned to death. Says so in the Law. Why would an all merciful and loving God have the death penalty? Well, you love your children, don't you? You want them to grow up and be a benefit to society, right? In order to do that, you as a parent, have to teach your children responsibility, and accountability. In order to do that, you have to discipline them. Whether it's spanking them, putting them in the corner or taking away their privileges, you have to punish them for doing something wrong. What we, as parents, teach in our homes is a small scale version of what they will face out in society when they get out on their own. So if they thumb their nose at our rules and disciplines, more than likely, they'll thumb their noses at society's as well. So why the harshness of the Law? Why the death penalty for working on the Sabbath? Well, in MY opinion, I believe that discipline only works if the punishment costs more than the perpetrator is willing to pay. In other words, if I steal a candy bar and all you are going to do is stick me in the corner, then I'll be munching on candy bars all the time. BUT, if you're going to whip me with a switch until I can't sit down, well... that's a different story all together.
Now, there is a religious and philosophical argument to all this that can be addressed in another hub later. The point is that God's Laws supported the death penalty.
It would of tremendous help if we could look into the mind and heart of the accused to determine their intent. That would go a long way in determining their guilt and the appropriate punishment for their crime. But we can't. You stated as much, Tony, in your response to Trooper22. And that is what Jesus was referring to when he says "Judge not, lest ye be judged..." He's talking to those people who, in their pride or boastfulness, claim to know the heart and mind of someone who supposedly committed a crime. They claim to know "The why". Only God knows why. So they are claiming, albeit foolishly, to be like God, which is a big no-no.
Okay, I've addressed Religion. I know that it wasn't done entirely satisfactorily, but hopefully I got my point across. Next is society. In order to live in society, we have to observe the laws of society. These laws allow us to function on an even ground. These laws state what is acceptable as a community and what is not. And once again, there has to be discipline. There has to be responsibility and there has to be accountability. So when someone commits murder, if you're in a society that supports the death penalty, they are subject to that law. If it's something they oppose, there is nothing preventing them from moving to a community that doesn't have that penalty. (That, obviously, is a simple solution that people are willing to overlook because the benefits of living where they do outweigh their opposition to the local laws. Duly noted.) I, as a citizen, have a right to expect my community to protect me and mine from those who wish to do me harm. I have a right to expect that it will be dealt with in an efficient and speedily manner. And I have a right to expect that Justice will be served.
Nothing is ever easy in life. I, as a citizen, do not want to be burdened with the responsibility of providing a roof, a cot, three meals a day, clothing, medical attention, education, entertainment, and communication to someone who has proven that they are not willing to be a viable component of society. For someone who has proven their contempt for their fellow man, in MY opinion, it is better that they be removed from society and sent along their way into the afterlife for the benefit of the rest of society.
That does not mean that I agree with the way the law is performed or executed. I believe that the law needs to change in a manner that will be more demanding of proof. BUT... I also believe that once that proof is provided, get on with it and get it over and done. I believe that one reason it is not as much of a deterrent is because it takes so long to execute someone. Punishment delayed is punishment withheld, some would say.
One other thing I'd like to address. Reference is made to the families of one who is murdered, that they are seeking and receiving revenge. And that society intervenes on their behalf to stop the "spiral of violence" (good point, by the way). But I would like to also add that society speaks for the victim, the one murdered. That thought alone should convey a termination to the end of the "spiral of violence".
Society allows us individual liberties. We have to accept that those individual liberties stop with the next individual. I.E. You may want to punch me in the nose. Your liberty or freedom to do so stops at the end of my nose... BEFORE you touch my nose.
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 06, 2010:
Hummingbird - I agree that child abuse is possibly the most heinous crime there is. The point about human rights, though, is that a human has those rights irrespective, just by virtue of being human. And the right to life is one of them. The issue of women and child abuse is not as simple as that the perpetrator is an evil person. There are many societal issues involved which also make the death inappropriate even for such people. But that's the subject for another Hub, maybe?
Lori - hope you waiver a bit more to the side of abolition! Anyway I appreciate your openness.
Maita - yes the waste of lives, too often innocent lives, is a horrible consequence of the death penalty, one which I don't believe society should accept.
Vox - I agree that there needs to be a way to deal with women and child abusers that would protect the vulnerable.
Thanks all for contributing to this important debate.
Love and peace
Jasmine on April 05, 2010:
Because of the possibility of convicting an innocent person (which was the case more than once in the past) I believe sentencing to death is wrong. The ´´beasts´´ (for whom it is known they killed or sexually molested children) should be chained (hand and legs), thrown into a solitary without possibility of communicating with another human being until they die!
prettydarkhorse from US on April 05, 2010:
Thought provoking hub, there are innocent lives wasted because the judgement is wrong. Thank you for this well written hub, maita
loriamoore on April 05, 2010:
Thanks for a very thorough article. I used to have the "give me a clipboard and a gun" attitude toward the death penalty, but now I waiver a little. I'm still pretty sure that I'm pro death penalty, though.
Hummingbird5356 on April 05, 2010:
You have obviously researched this article well. There are arguments for and against the death penalty. It is supposed to be a deterrent but on the other hand if someone commits a crime that could be punishable by death then they will not hesitate to kill a witness to try and escape.
I don't know if there are less murders without a death penalty but there is one crime for which I would give the death penalty; and that is abuse of children. That is one of the worst crimes in my opinion and it usually destroys the child's life. You could say the child is not dead but what has been left after abuse?
It is not only the body that is important but the mind. No one has the right to take a child's innocence and childhood away.
For me, these people have lost their rights to life.
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 05, 2010:
Dim - thanks for your honest and thoughtful comment. We are hard-wired for revenge and so letting go of that feeling, that desire, is hard. But very necessary, I think, if we are to be really and fully human.
Billy - your comment is also deeply felt and thoughtful. It is a hard road to find tolerance and forgiveness in our hearts.
William - your comment is really deeply appreciated. You have hit the nail on the head, so to speak!
Trooper - I really understand whre you're coming from and appreciate your comment very much. Where I differ with you is that we can never know what is in another person's heart or mind. So to kill a person on the supposition that they have no remorse and will again commit a heinous crime is going a bit far. We don't fully know the hearts and minds of our most intimate friends or partners, how can we presume to know what is going on in the mind of a total stranger?
Gramarye - I understand your position on this. It is not an easy issue at all. As I said in the Hub it goes to the heart of who and what we are as people.
OcBill - in addition to my response to Trooper - can we really put a monetary price on human life? And more, how much, in monetary terms, does our humanity cost, because that's the cost we pay when a person is executed. Our humanity takes a knock, and a big one.
Thanks everyone for contributing to this essential debate which is really more about who were are as people that about the death penalty per se.
Love and peace
ocbill from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice on April 05, 2010:
Sorry, but some of the horrible crimes and murders committed by people or a person I read online, sometimes seem as if they were from a gory movie scene.
As trooper22 said and I cannot see how someone could disagree; "For the serial killer, and the serial rapist/pedophile, the cases are chronic and span in some cases decades. The offenders are not remorseful, and they will (if allowed) strike again. Put them down."
Yes they must go quickly. To make matters worse how much is the state spending annually to keep some murderers alive? $36,000+ for a jail cell, food, gym, tv, and pc's?
and they have state budget shortfalls?
The person is a proven deadly menace to society. No need to pay for this annually for 25 years or more.
gramarye from Adelaide - Australia on April 04, 2010:
Australia doesn't have the death penalty, and is unlikely to re-introduce it. I agree that everyone has an opinion, but I am definitely a fence-sitter.
trooper22 from Chicago on April 04, 2010:
Well done Tony, this is an excellent argument. However I find myself parting company in a few circumstances. Where I agree is that the death penalty is not a deterrent. The U.S. murder rate has never been higher than it is now, and the death penalty as you pointed out so well has done nothing to stem the tide.
Where I disagree is that the death penalty is a viable option for serial rapists/pedophiles and serial killers. Why? Because much like a mad dog, or a lame horse, these animals must be put down. They have no use in society and their crimes are too heinous to attempt re-habilitation. In these cases it is not about revenge, it's about cost. These criminals have by their own actions forfeited their right to civilization. They should not be allowed to burden the tax payers with their food, and housing. The argument regarding mistaken conviction is relevant only for single, or in rare cases multiple offences over a short period of time. For the serial killer, and the serial rapist/pedophile, the cases are chronic and span in some cases decades. The offenders are not remorseful, and they will (if allowed) strike again. Put them down.
William F Torpey from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on April 04, 2010:
I commend you, Tony, for your clear, well-written and well-reasoned analysis of this social problem. I agree entirely with your conclusion, and I am delighted to see so many comments by readers who understand the futility of the death penalty. The biggest hangup always seems to center around the most heinous crimes, especially those against children. As despicable as those crimes are, it's important to understand that the only thing we accomplish by executing these criminals is to diminish the value of our own lives and sustain the cycle of violence.
billyaustindillon on April 04, 2010:
A very necessary conversation this one. For mine I find it hard to support the death penalty as a believer in Christ and his teachings. Tolerance and forgiveness are important human traits and very hard to master. I am against the death penalty because I believe no one has the right to play God, least of all government that are more corrupt and found wanting by the day. There is no simple answer - I always think also that the brutal murderers of children and women, the pedophiles would find it much more difficult in a hardcore prison where they are the scum on the totem poll - death would be too easy for them. I think this is one of those topics people will never all agree on.
Dim Flaxenwick from Great Britain on April 04, 2010:
That was a fascinating article, Tony. I used to believe that the only goog reason for NOT having a death penalty is that humans make mistakes. How many people have been wrongfully imprisoned for many years and finally freed,.
A bit useles if the death penalty had bee enacted.
My only grief with this is if , I knew for certain..i.e. caught in the act a paedi\ophile with any child I think I could quite happily shoot him myself. Not that I know how to shoot, but I'm sure you understand my meaning.
At the end of the day, though I am a believer in God and the bible so I have to take notice of "Vengence is mine, saith the LOrd I WILL repay" Thanks again for a great hub
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 04, 2010:
Chasing cars - the horror of state-sponsored execution is great indeed! The practical question is of course the difficult one. And if we put as much energy into dealing with that as we do into debating the death penalty, maybe we would get somewhere!
Nancy - "state sanctioned murder" that is exactly what it is, as is war. Thanks for your comment and for the links which I will follow up in due course.
Love and peace
Nancy's Niche on April 04, 2010:
Excellent article Tony...It disproves the Christians theory of “an eye for an eye.” Your right some people tend to quote only the portions of biblical phrases they feel justifies their support of capital punishment. Too many innocent people have been put to death, and that in itself is the strongest argument against the death penalty.
Here’s another thing that puzzles me, how can one profess to be a Christian and/or a pro-lifer yet be in favor of the death penalty which, is basically state sanctioned murder. Those connected with this type of decision and enforcement will have to answer for that support one day.
Our justice system is so politically corrupt and motivated that laws are now ruining the lives of our children…If you don’t think so, read the links below…
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 04, 2010:
Teacher - you are indeed a teacher, thank you!
Joe - the point is, I think, that the lines are very, very seldom balck or white, and so the margin of error is almost always too large for a certain verdict which might justify the death penalty.
Al - yes indeed the assumption of one person of the decision of life or death over another is, for the religious person, an assumption of God's role. And you are not insensitive, rather the contrary, you seem to me a very sensitive and loving person.
Ann - I appreciate your comment very much indeed.
DG - thanks for the clarification of the lex talionis point. Agree totally with you last para.
Kaie - the death penalty is never going to be an easy issue to decide, especially when one has a personal involvement like the murder of a family member. It's really hard, and I really understand the way you feel.
Lady Jane - there is indeed too much to lose with the death penalty, most importantly the death of innocents. Its effect on society at large is also incalculable.
Violence is something so destructive of our humanity, however it manifests itself. Just yesterday evening a notorious right-wing leader in South Africa was murdered. His murder would in normal circumstances have been horrible but relatively limited in its consequences. But because there is in South Africa a legacy of many centuries of violence, especially against blacks, that this murder could quite easily unleash a new orgy of violence, of revenge and more revenge. I pray that does not happen, but it is a close call, I think.
Thank you everyone for commenting on this rather controversial and difficult subject. Your visits and words have greatly encouraged me.
Easter is the day we are celebrating the victory of life over death. May it be so.
Love and peace
chasingcars on April 04, 2010:
I find that when society takes the life of an innocent person, whether in war or because of criminal activity, that act is abhorrent and is detrimental to that society's moral and social well being. As to the death penalty in criminal cases, the moral blot of state-sponsored execution of other humans rests not only on the society itself, but also on its executioners. One frightening thought is that innocent people are occasionally executed by society through the auspices of sometimes incompetent, biased, or criminal personel who set those executions in motion. The risk is far too high, and the cost to enlightened evolution is set back.
Let me play the devil's advocate a moment, though. Setting the vengeance and disgusting public spectacle motives aside, and they do exist, unfortunately, society has always found itself faced with the quandry of what to do with people who are so bent on its destruction that there is no safe alternative. It is like facing a mad dog which cannot help itself. What does society do to protect its citizens from rape and murder by such sociopaths or psychopaths? Sticking them in jail or a mental institution forever only exposes other human beings to their rapacious natures, and there is to guarantee that these people will not eventually get out again.
From the enlightened point of view, the matter is simple. From the practical point of view, no so much.
ladyjane1 from Texas on April 04, 2010:
Interesting subject and very well written hub Tonymac. I am definitely against the death penalty for a couple of reasons that you mentioned. For one thing we cannot judge if someone is going to die for their criminal act because two wrongs do not make a right and also because the criminal justice system is so biased in the killing of minorites compared to the killing of white men. In the criminal justice system when the defendant is a minority the death penalty is pushed harder than if the defendant is white. Just look at the amount of minorities are on death row right now compared with whites who are on lowp. Those are the two reasons that come to mind for me because it is not equally distributed and because the death penalty is just revenge. Kaie above mentioned Richard Speck, one of the most vile serial killers of all times he also had a double y chromosome that was his defense for being overly aggressive. He had a tattoo on his arm that said, "born to raise hell". If anyone was a prime candidate for the death penalty than he would be the one, instead he got lwop, he even made a tape in prison where he was having sex with other prisoners and thanked the victims families for being advocates against the death penalty because he was having so much fun in prison. Nevertheless he didn't receive the death penalty but God got him in the end because he had a massive heart attack in prison. There is too much to lose with the death penalty and while most other couhtries have already abolished it, America keeps hanging on to it and as you can see with the crime rate the way it is, it definitely does not deter anyone as the crimes are getting more and more vile in frequency and nature. Thanks for making me think this morning Tony. Great hub.
Kaie Arwen on April 04, 2010:
Tony- Right or wrong I support the death penalty in many instances. I admit, that hasn't always been the case............ but as an adult I will not lie and say that I don't when I find certain circumstances and actions to warrant it.
When I was a little girl, I can remember Richard Speck on the news, not because I watched, but because I can remember my father's reactions to his rape and murder of eight young women in Chicago. I didn't watch the news; I wasn't old enough to understand or pay attention to any of it, but I do remember the way my father's vehement reaction struck me. My father was never vindictive; he never wished ill upon anyone; he was all laughs, smiles, and an abundance of love, but when it came to Speck he very clearly stated that he deserved the death sentence.......... something so unexpected never left me.......... even if I couldn't believe or understand why.
As an adult, there was a murder in my ex-husband's family. His cousin's estranged husband broke into their home on Christmas Eve., and took the life of his own six year old son. He dragged him under an open stairway and strangled him with a cord of Christmas lights. Just before his execution there was a massive media surge to stay the execution; I didn't support the stay........... the thought of it made me sick, and when it was refused I wasn't sorry.
I'm know that there have been many times when mistakes have been made; those mistakes are a travesty, and they were unjust. That anyone's life has ever been ended over a mistake is beyond sad, and that's where the death penalty loses me.
You've picked a very controversial subject here............ and I know that what Jesus preached on Earth refuted the words of the Old Testament. I guess this is something that I will always be riding the fence on........ some things are going to leave me on the side that doesn't support, and there are always those times when I will fall into the side that does.
Thanks for making me think this morning...........
De Greek from UK on April 04, 2010:
Tony, I agree with you on all points but one. The law of equal and direct retribution was to be implemented by the state, not by individuals and this was done exactly to AVOID the spiralling of violence through revenge. With the State as the executioner, the buck stops there.
There was logic in this. The basic human instinct for revenge was satisfied (you are very correct in this) and the relatives of the punished had no means or, indeed, reason to seek revenge from the state who implemented the principle of lex talionis. In other words, the state punished not only to protect itself and its citizens, but also punished on behalf of the aggrieved in order to prevent the aggrieved from seeking revenge. Bearing in mind the lawless times this was implemented, this made sense FOR THAT PERIOD.
Otherwise I am in agreement with all your other points. The fact that there are people who casually sit back and say that they would wan to take a life because of some supposed DNA infallibility frightens me. What if there is NO DNA evidence? And how do the proponents of this feel about the innocent people who were killed by the state before DNA could exonerate them? They were complicit in those murders because they supported the death penalty. According to the principle they support, they should now pay with the same coin of an eye for an eye. Is Maven 101 ready to accept his fate?
Ann Nonymous from Virginia on April 04, 2010:
Hello Tony! Good job with your explanations and your "arguments/defense" of all of the above!
Wishing you a Blessed Easter to you and Your!
Mystique1957 from Caracas-Venezuela on April 03, 2010:
I find this hub extremely important. As we go deeper into a new era and an absolute necessity of becoming a more unified race for the benefit of the planet, it is absolutely out of the question to play God and decide who dies and how. It would seem that technologically we give giant leaps and at the same time we dehumanize ourselves by passing judgment and deciding on people´s lives. When I hear someone who has lost a loved one by being murdered, and that someone actually rejoices with a trial verdict of a Death Penalty, that person becomes no better than the murderer himself. The worst part is that they quickly say: "That´s Divine Justice. God wanted it that way!" And they feel themselves off the hook. They have just created a ripple of hatred that will expand ever increasingly causing havoc in every direction. And in the end, the death of the perpetrator did not bring back to life the victim. Some people may even call me insensitive. I just feel that Mankind should never have the power of deciding who lives or dies. There are higher laws for that and they do not need man´s directives. Nobody can price him/herself of being a son of God and rejoice with the death of another human being. To begin with, those mentally deranged people who murder are a byproduct of Society itself. Well, that´s my personal view! I agree with you on :"Indeed the death penalty only further brutalizes an already brutal situation and does nothing of value for society."
Warmest regards and infinite blessings,
JOE BARNETT on April 03, 2010:
hey tony-i think that if the lines were black and white and the person did do it. then the death penalty is justified.taking an innocent persons life over money or revenge. at this point they had the choice to walk away. what i think is terrible is when the person is professing their innocence, then twenty years later it's discovered that the evidence was hidden by prosecutors or something like that.then you wonder why nothing happens to the prosecutors. so with those variables corrupting the system i think it's safer to do lwop. thought provoking hub!
green tea-cher on April 03, 2010:
From the perspective of quantum physics, if there truly is a common energy that flows through all things and makes us ONE, does "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" mean " what you do to others, you also do to yourself." If so, capital punishment is not the answer and is not necessary, but "love thy neighbor as thyself" definitely is. Taking someones life intentionally, whether it is a violent murder or capital punishment, is still murder. Great Hub, Tony
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 03, 2010:
Lor - thanks for the kind words. I feel honoured that you commented. It is not an easy subject and the ethical questions surrounding the death penalty are always personally challenging.
Love and peace
Laurel Rogers from Grizzly Flats, Ca on April 03, 2010:
Tony-what an amazingly researched hub. Thank you for this. I am not sure how I feel about the death penalty, having felt strongly for both sides of this issue at different times in my life. Perhaps I have come to a hard decision that it is justified in some circumstances, but still, activists who participate in The Innocence Project give me pause when finding men-usually-innocent and facing the needle.
Tony McGregor (author) from South Africa on April 03, 2010:
Sheila - LWOP is often not an option, but death is pretty final!
Mentalist - I'm not sure I would agree with you on that point. Why should we leave it to criminals to decide what is reasonable or not?
Voice - thanks for the compliment.
Lisa - thanks. Revenge is indeed one of the basest things in our human psyche.
Larry - thanks for your detailed response. I think I addressed the issue of justice and would add that fitting the punishment to the crime is not as simple as it would seem. Would you want to rape a rapist, for example? Or steal from a thief? Killing someone because they have killed is not reasonable, simply revenge. On the question of revenge I really do not appeal to religious authority, but to reasonableness. Revenge is a base instinct and contributes to the spiral of violence. If we want to reduce violence we need to work on reducing the application of revenge.
My mentioning of Christ's admonition against revenge was just to question how Christians can still call for the death penalty, which many do.
My appeal is to reason, not religious (or other) authority.
Your final point, is the risk of taking unnecessary lives not too great? Why play with human life? We should be promoting the sanctity of life and treating it with reverence. Maybe if we did so more we would end up having fewer murders, either by criminals or the state. Executing people is not a great way to show reverence for life.
Anyway I appreciate your taking the time to comment in so detailed a way. Thank you.
Love and peace
Larry Conners from Northern Arizona on April 03, 2010:
Tony..This is a well-researched and intelligent argument for removing the death penalty from the statutes of law...If one accepts the raison d'etre you have offered: Revenge, deterrence, arbitrariness, and religious admonition as valid arguments against the death penalty, I would have to agree with your conclusion...However, there are other arguments that support the death penalty.
An argument that refutes revenge and deterrence as motives for imposing the death penalty, is simply the most fundamental principle of Justice; that the punishment should fit the crime...the death penalty is a just punishment for certain horrendous crimes...no thoughts of revenge or deterrence, simply an application of Justice...
Your next inference is arbitrariness, an argument now considered moot with the onset of modern DNA testing that virtually eliminates questions of guilt or innocence...
Finally, the argument of an appeal to authority ( religion ) is a false argument when considered with the knowledge that not all people are religious...
I would like to add my personal take on this question of societal ethics: If we execute murderers and there is, in fact, no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers...If, on the other hand, we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would, in fact, have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims...I would much rather risk the former...This, to me, is not a tough call...Larry
lisadpreston from Columbus, Ohio on April 03, 2010:
Well done. You know How I feel about the death penalty. I like it that you brought up the revenge factor. Revenge is a character flaw I had to work on when my dog was murdered. I'm still growing and trying to better myself. Controlling anger for me is difficult when something innocent and pure is destroyed such as an animal or children. I don't want the death penalty. For me, the problem is that I could end up being the one receiving the death penalty. Rising above our base instincts can be a slow process, but I must do it. It is necessary for my evolution and mankinds as well.
thevoice from carthage ill on April 03, 2010:
five start hub and more God speed happy easter
Mentalist acer from A Voice in your Mind! on April 03, 2010:
Only a person about to,or disuaded from committing a crime can say if the death penalty is reasonable.
sheila b. on April 03, 2010:
Many people support the death penalty because most states don't have Life without parole sentences. Some criminals should not ever be allowed in public again. I would prefer to have LWOP sentences, and bring the death penalty to an end.