The Case against the Death Penalty

It is the height of hypocrisy for the state to say that murder is wrong and then turn around and commit murder in the name of justice. If the state wants to put out the message that murder is wrong, then the state needs to stop committing murder. The term “execution” is just a euphemism. When you kill an unarmed man or woman against their will, that is the definition of murder, whether done by an individual or the state (or the armed forces).

Killing a killer will definitely prevent him from killing again. So will life in prison. But it will not deter anyone else from committing murder. Most murders are crimes of passion. Crimes of passion do not involve someone sitting down and carefully planning out a murder. That only happens on TV and in the movies. Ironically, it is those murders that are carefully planned out, usually by professional hit men or psychotic killers, that are never solved. In the Middle Ages, crimes were dealt with very severely. One could lose a hand for stealing a loaf of bread. One was hanged for picking pockets. The death penalty didn’t seem to be much of a deterrent, however, as hangings were one of the most popular events for pickpockets.

It is well known that executions cost more than life imprisonment and, as it has been said before, the most hardened criminal has a chance to reform herself and contribute to society even if she spends her life in prison.

Now that we have DNA testing, many death row inmates have been released, especially black men, because the DNA evidence proves their innocence. It is unfortunate but a fact of life in these United States that many black men have been found guilty of crimes such as rape or murder just because they happened to be in the neighborhood at the time of the crime. Eyewitness reports are notoriously inaccurate. The ideal in criminal justice used to be, “It is better to let 10 guilty people go free than to execute one innocent.” Now the ideal seems to be, “Kill them all and let God sort them out.”

Either life is precious or it is not. If it is precious, then every life is precious, regardless of crimes committed. Give the murderer time to think about their crime. If they never repent, at least they will never kill again and if you think that life in prison is any kind of life, you have not spent time in prison.

Every family who loses someone to murder must mourn for their loss just as every family who loses someone to disease, accident, or war. Revenge is a poison taken by the victim’s family. It doesn’t ameliorate the loss and it has no effect on the perpetrator. The execution of the murderer does not heal the loss and does not remove the poison of hatred. I know of two families who took the murderer of their sons into their own homes and treated them as their own son. I met one of these women personally. Most of us can’t even imagine behaving like that but it shows what human beings are capable of.

The way we treat the worst people in our society is a measure of how civilized we are. As Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you….”