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Death Penalty: Pro Con? Or Against ‘Em? October 4, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Life Balance, Mindfulness, People.

WordPress tackled a BIG issue today:  Do you agree with the Death Penalty?

I’ve pondered the issue from many angles ~ as a philosophy major in college, as an economics major in college, while studying the ethics of law and the legal system in law school, and since. 

After considering it from many angles, including the claimed impact as a deterrent, as retribution, and as revenge,  I am in favor of the death penalty . . . for many murderers on death row. 

Sometimes we KNOW they did it ~ not just by a preponderance of the evidence, not just beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond a shadow of a doubt. 

We caught them red handed . . . with the blood dripping from their murder weapon of choice. 

In those instances, I see NO REASON to keep them alive.  

They forfeited their right to life by taking the life of another. 

The finality of knowing they will DIE is what some of us need . . . in a life that is often both unjust and unfair.

Your thoughts?

Related posts:  Do you agree with the death penalty? (Pseu’s Blog) * Capital Punishment * Do you agree with the death penalty (Sarsm’s Blog) * My Jail Males & What do I think about the death penalty? (I’ve Been Thinking About)


1. clarbojahn - October 4, 2011

As a member of Amnesty International I have just thought to follow their views on no death penalty since today. Now after this and other blogs on the subject.
First there are instances of where the guilty are caught redhanded. Certainly they have forfeited their right to life and especially to life outside prison bars. But if there is even the slimest chance that they are innocent, then all effort should be made to give them a second chance at life and life should not be taken away in a death penalty. Not for the most slim of chances.
There have been cases recently that have been found innocent after years on death row and this is the reason I find it difficult to believe in the death penalty for all those given the verdict.

nrhatch - October 4, 2011

I agree. The death penalty should be limited to cases based on certainty, not conjecture.

sarsm - October 5, 2011

The good news is that since the 1970’s no one has been granted a posthumous pardon in the US. Things have really improved in terms of being certain. (Source: Wikipedia)

nrhatch - October 5, 2011

Of course, that could be because state governments don’t want to “apologize” for making a mistake.

In that respect, the TSA is following their lead:

We’re sorry that this passenger had a less than ideal experience . . .


We fucked up but we aren’t going to apologize or admit we made a mistake because that might negatively impact national security.

Our inadequately trained and over zealous agents strip searched her because they enjoy abusing the power they’ve been given. It makes them feel important.

Anyone lacking in common sense might have refused to believe that she had had breast surgery while refusing to give her 5 seconds to produce medical records to prove it.

2. Piglet in Portugal - October 4, 2011

I agree with you Nancy but I also agree with carbojahn above.

I will also add some people are born evil and are the very dregs of humanity so providing the evidence presented leaves no doubt I can see no point in keeping them alive.

It must be a difficult call to condemn someone to death…

nrhatch - October 4, 2011

It’s very case dependent with me ~ some people have forfeited their right to life and deserve to die.

They are little more than vicious animals, and beyond redemption, and should be put out of their misery.

knitnkwilt - October 4, 2011

It interests me that in order to justify putting people to death you have to describe them as less than human. It would appear that you have trouble with seeing humans put to death.

nrhatch - October 4, 2011

Actually, I am NOT a speciesist.

I have more of a problem with INNOCENT animals being slaughtered and treated inhumanely than I do with GUILTY human beings being put to death after being convicted and sentenced to die.

At least they know WHY they are going to die.

We’re all ANIMALS. It’s the viciousness of murderers and rapists that makes me feel that they deserve to die once they have forfeited their right to life.

3. Linda - October 4, 2011

I 100% agree if there is not a shadow of a doubt and they are caught so to speak with blood dripping from the knife then yes they should die.

nrhatch - October 4, 2011

There are cases that are so circumstantial that the prosecutor should NOT even seek the death penalty.

But it should be available as a judiciously awarded punishment when it is clear that an individual has committed a crime so horrific that we no longer wish to breathe the same air as him or her. Usually him.

4. kateshrewsday - October 4, 2011

Tricky, I’m against because I don’t want to be as bad as them, taking a life. But I might feel differently if I were involved on a personal level as a victim or a relative.

nrhatch - October 4, 2011

There are many times when the death penalty is completely unwarranted . . . either BY THE FACTS, or by the LACK OF FACTS and solid proof.

But I don’t believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater. What we want is better and clearer guidelines for when prosecutors SHOULD seek the death penalty, and when they should instead be seeking BETTER EVIDENCE of guilt.

5. creatingreciprocity - October 4, 2011

The main problem with the death penalty is that it requires absolutes – absolute prejudice-free societies, absolute certainty of guilt – absolute justice. Many people are wrongly convicted as a result of prejudiced and even corrupt testimony. It’s bad to wrongly convict the innocent and condemn them to spend years in prison – it’s worse if you kill them.
I don’t think we are developed enough as a race to use such high risk sanctions.

nrhatch - October 4, 2011

Thanks for weighing in, Patricia.

I’m not sure that putting an innocent person to death is worse than sentencing them to life in prison ~ I might well choose death to living behind bars with no freedom.

creatingreciprocity - October 5, 2011

I absolutely agree that there are fates worse than death, Nancy and might well be like you in those circumstances. Even so I’m not sure we can handle the responsibility of the death penalty.

As an individual I am reactive (reciprocal even!!!) so if someone killed one of my loved ones I’m fairly sure I would want to hunt them down! However, I’m not so sure that’s one of my better qualities!

Revenge may be a natural reaction for an individual but I think it causes bad choices to be made and many, many mistakes and so it’s a bad basis for law and order. We should be striving for a higher form of justice than revenge.

Well done for having this important discussion, Nancy.

nrhatch - October 5, 2011

Thanks, Patricia! Unlike other “life and death” issues, this one doesn’t dredge up strong emotions in me.

When Osama bin Laden was gunned down like a dog, it didn’t bother me a bit. It seemed like sweet justice.

Maybe when we start exercising compassion towards ALL SPECIES and the Earth itself, I’ll rethink my position on the death penalty. 😀

6. Richard W Scott - October 4, 2011

I am in awe of people who can stand one way or another about the death penalty. I have never been able to pin it down. My reaction to someone being put to death is always emotional, and it can change from yea to nay in a heartbeat.

I have seen cases which seem so cut and dried, so evil, so hurtful on every level, that I think, “yes… this time.” But then, I’ll think about it, especially as the time grows near.

Once a person is dead they are no longer paying for their act. They are no longer paying for anything. One does not learn a lesson by being killed. One is only stopped from killing somebody else. One is only stopped, period.

Which is more of a deterrent? Knowing you might die, an instant of pain, and then freedom? (I do not take religious view in mind in these cases.) Or, does the thought of being incarcerated until natural or accidental death comes sound more horrible? I guess it depends upon the person.

I’m just not sure that the proper penalty is “an eye for an eye”. If people think life is sacred, how can they demand the life of another, no matter what the reason? How can he did it to someone, so we can do it to him really work?

I know this makes it sound like I am anti-death penalty, and I probably do lean that way, but making a cold, hard decision, taking either side as a hard line, is something I cannot do.

nrhatch - October 4, 2011

Wonderful points, Rik. This is a highly charged issue for many people. If we believe in the sanctity of life ABOVE ALL OTHER CONSIDERATIONS, then the death penalty should be abolished.

I don’t believe in the sanctity of life above all other considersations. I believe that our freedom is more important than whether we live to die another day.

7. Judith - October 4, 2011

Well Nancy you have really got me thinking today. We don’t have the death penalty in NZ. In fact, Walter Bolton became the last to be executed when he was hanged at Mount Eden prison in 1957. NZ follows English Common Law and capital punishment could be applied for, ‘murder, treason and piracy’.

So it would be easy for me to opt out of the discussion but…. I am generally against capital punishment for all the reasons everybody cites – should we take another persons life for whatever reason; if the person is left to serve out a long prison sentence would he/she have time to repent and of course, the number of times that a person has appealed and the conviction has been quashed. We have two high profile cases here and if the death sentence had been imposed it would have been on two innocent men.

I can see the other side of the argument too, but am still bothered by how much of the evidence is circumstantial (as in the two cases above).

Thanks for making my brain work overtime today.

nrhatch - October 4, 2011

After doing a bit of research, it appears that approximately 2/3 of the world’s nations have abolished capital punishment ~ with 1/3 retaining it for at least some offenses. In contrast, a slight majority of individuals polled worldwide believe that capital punishment should be retained:

A Gallup International poll from 2000 said that “Worldwide support was expressed in favor of the death penalty, with just more than half (52%) indicating that they were in favour of this form of punishment.”

A number of other polls and studies have been done in recent years with various results.

In a poll completed by Gallup in October 2009, 65% of Americans supported the death penalty for persons convicted of murder, while 31% were against and 5% did not have an opinion.

An ABC News survey in July 2006 found 65 percent in favour of capital punishment, consistent with other polling since 2000.

About half the American public says the death penalty is not imposed frequently enough and 60 percent believe it is applied fairly, according to a Gallup poll from May 2006.

Glad you had a chance to weigh in on this weighty issue, Judith.

8. Patricia - October 4, 2011

This is such a difficult subject. There are so many gray areas in these cases.

My leaning is toward no death penalty. That being said…there are those that admit their guilt. They say they did it. Why all the appeals?And what about the guilty that do not want appeals? Yet there is appeal after appeal for years. And the tax payers must support these people while they are in prison.

There must to be clear evidence or admission of guilt to decide to end someone’s life.

We are imperfect people who can only do the best we can with what we have been given to decide such cases. Sadly, it is true as creatingresiprocity said, not all can put aside prejudice and bias, and there are few absolutes in society.

If called to serve on a jury trying a death penalty case I would have to be excused. My beliefs and thoughts and feelings are too conflicted to be able to make so final a decision.

nrhatch - October 4, 2011

The trend is definitely AWAY from capital punishment:

According to information published by Amnesty International in 2011, 96 countries had abolished capital punishment altogether, 9 had done so for all offences except under special circumstances, and 34 had not used it for at least 10 years or were under a moratorium.

The other 58 retained the death penalty in active use.

While I am opposed to torture as a means of deterrent or as punishment for any offense, applying the death penalty in certain egregious cases doesn’t bother me.

Maybe it’s because I’m not afraid to die . . . I just don’t want to die after prolonged pain.

9. Christine Grote - October 4, 2011

You’re brave to take this on. I am opposed to the death penalty, not because their aren’t people who don’t deserve to live, but because it can never be administered fairly. I met sister Helen Prejean and have read her books. It is an unjustly administered penalty. All you have to do is look at the stats.

I also don’t believe it is our right as human beings to take another life unless it is in self defense.

Put the bad guys away and don’t ever let them out. Protect society.

Look at the countries that allow the death penalty and ask yourself if this is the company you wish to keep.

nrhatch - October 4, 2011

If it’s unjustly administered, then so are other penalties and punishments. That means that we should improve the process of administering “justice.”

I do believe that it is our collective right as a society to take the life of others under certain prescribed circumstances because the person in question has forfeited their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by the crimes they have committed.

As for your last sentence, I don’t base my value judgments or moral beliefs on what others choose to do or refrain from doing. If people want to “judge me” for keeping the “wrong company,” I don’t see that as my problem. 😀

10. BrainRants - October 4, 2011

Nancy, we actually agree on a topic. Yes, some things are so heinous that the perp simply needs to be eliminated from the gene pool. Period. Osama was dead ten years ago, he just found out this year… as an example.

nrhatch - October 4, 2011

I agree. I feel better knowing that Osama bin Ladin and Saddam Hussein are DEAD.

I didn’t rejoice at their deaths and I wouldn’t dance on their graves, but it gives me comfort knowing that they have been “removed from the gene pool” and shall breathe no more.

11. BrainRants - October 4, 2011

Oh, and the bastards who made the little, tiny ribcages that I saw removed from a burned-down house in Kosovo.

nrhatch - October 4, 2011

And them too!

12. Maggie - October 4, 2011

According to my religion, all human life is sacred and we, as humans, have no right to judge others or to take away their life.

But what kind of a life is it to wake up every day knowing that you committed a horrible crime? What kind of life is it to wake up knowing that you are sentenced to death? Many of those on death row may not be in their right mind and may not be aware that they’ve committed a horrible crime. But their life is not an enjoyable one, even though our taxes are taking care of them and giving them three meals a day and shelter.

It’s a very difficult issue. I hate the idea of putting someone to death, but I also hate the idea of having them stay in jail for life – where they are given free food and shelter that they don’t deserve.

And there are some who say that these criminals don’t deserve a nice, quiet death by lethal injection, either. Some say they deserve to be tormented as their victims were – but I definitely don’t believe that should be the case.

“An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind.”

nrhatch - October 4, 2011

Religions tend to give lip service to the sacredness of life . . . yet how many people have died in the name of Christ . . . with the Church leading the charge?

Putting to death someone who has forfeited their right to life (by violating the social contract we live under) doesn’t bother me as long as it’s done humanely ~ just put them to sleep and relieve them (and us) of their perpetual misery.

I don’t see the death penalty as taking an eye for an eye ~ if that was our rationale we would make the punishment fit the crime by castrating, raping, or torturing them first.

We tend not to do that . . . even with nasty bastards like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

13. Paula Tohline Calhoun - October 4, 2011

The essential reason for my being against the death penalty is that if I were on a jury that voted to recommend it, I would not be the one pulling the switch, injecting the poison, or pulling the trigger, tying the noose, or dropping the gas pellet – whatever. I cannot ask someone else to do something that I would be unwilling to do myself. I would have to believe so strongly that the person should die, that I would be willing to do the deed myself. I cannot imagine being able to do so. Partly because I am not certain that there is or can eer be absolute certainty of anyone’s guilt. Absolute certainty is subjective, or personal, isn’t it? Try asking three people to describe a scene that they all witnessed. You will inevitably get three different stories. Can’t help but be – it’s that pesky branch of hermeneutics rearing its rather unwieldy head again. . .

I’ve often considered how I would react were my own life to be threatened. I am not sure I would kill or injure to save myself. I’m sure there would be some sort of instinctive reaction, however, a fight or flight sort of thing, but I simply cannot know thr answer to that. BUT, if I were in a position (theoretically) to save another person from murder, I believe I would seriously consider killing another. Most assuredly if there were time, I believe I would try to find some solution in which everyone involved comes out alive and relatively unscathed!

I believe I would rather die myself than kill another. I have no fear of death, and owing to my faith, I would like to give the person choosing to murder me or another an opportunity to live long enough to recognize and understand the sanctity of life and the possibilities that are available to all through the gift of life. Life is so much more than survival – but that becomes a circular argument, doesn’t it? 😆

In closing (honest!), I believe, along with creatingreciprocity, that we as the fallible beings we are, cannot ever be absolutely certain of anything. (BTW, our penal system in the USA is so F’ed up that it has become a crime factory rather than a rehabilitation station. So much work to do in this country, and further study should be done on using creative sentencing, that actually produces positive results instead of warehousing people in absolutely deplorable conditions under the watchful eye of untrustworthy guards.)

For now, anyway, that will have to be enough. . . 😳

nrhatch - October 4, 2011

I could sit on a jury in the “right case,” impose the death penalty, and, if asked to do so, pull the switch myself. Some people do not deserve to live. And we are better off without them sharing our air.

That said, we do have work to do on our justice system ~ it is far from just.

14. sufilight - October 4, 2011

This is an issue that I can’t seem to vote on. Our system is so flawed that innocents have been executed. If I were to vote, I would say life imprisonment in a high security prision.

nrhatch - October 4, 2011

Thanks, Sufi. For some the sanctity of life preempts all other considerations. I can respect that even if I don’t agree with it.

I don’t like the idea of “innocents” being executed . . . but I don’t like the idea of them rotting in jail any better.

The justice system needs tweaking . . . but I’d like to preserve the death penalty for imposition when we KNOW “he” did it and there is no shadow of a doubt about “his” guilt.

15. ceceliafutch - October 4, 2011

Yes, I believe there is definitely a place for the death penalty. I also believe that until we address the inequities in our justice system that more often than we like to admit condemns the innocent to death, or the variations of if, when, and how the penalty is applied from state to state, or insure that DNA testing be required procedure before the verdict is handed down, we need a moratorium on sentencing people to death. Many folks get angry when I say that. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely do believe that there are people who forfeit their right to live. All I’m saying is that our judicial system is too flawed as it is now and too many innocents have died or spent time on death row. Fix that situation and I will have no qualms about the death penalty.

nrhatch - October 4, 2011

I agree. The death penalty should be limited to cases based on certainty, not conjecture. There are cases that are so circumstantial that the prosecutor should NOT even seek the death penalty.

But it should be available as a judiciously awarded punishment when it is clear that an individual HAS committed a crime so horrific that we no longer wish to breathe the same air as him (or her).

16. Carl D'Agostino - October 5, 2011

My feelings aside, I find that most people(I mean a great many) that are against abortion are for the death penalty and don’t see any inconsistency in their thinking.

nrhatch - October 5, 2011

I’m in favor of abortion (a woman’s right to choose) and the death penalty. I believe that there are things in life that trump the “right to life” of both unborn fetuses and convicted murderers.

17. ElizOF - October 5, 2011

Given the somewhat inconsistent and prejudicial way our judicial system works, my position is an unequivocal no. The eye for an eye option is also one that gives me pause… Sorry, no is my only answer.
See this:

nrhatch - October 5, 2011

No apology necessary, E!

I didn’t plan to respond to this prompt. When Pseu did, it got me thinking about where I stand on the issue. I decided to share my beliefs & opinions and encourage others to share their thoughts.

Our justice system has excellent bones . . . but it’s a bit out of shape and in need of an overhaul.

18. souldipper - October 5, 2011

Throughout my life, I have questioned the right of any human to decide to take the life of another living being. Human or animal; legal or illegal.

Never having been in a position of ‘kill or be killed’, I don’t know what I would do in my own defense. When I was flying over an embankment in the throes of an auto accident, I accepted death. I was startled to come to and then climb out of a flattened vehicle.

If a person harms, wounds, stops, etc. the life of another living being, that person needs to be relieved of rights and privileges of living in freedom.

Our track record is not great vis a vis the punishment fitting the crime.

We are a planet of people believing we are not attackers. We consider ourselves defenders. We believe our righteous actions are necessary – after all, we are defending our belief systems.

An overhaul of our belief systems, personally and nationally, is long overdue. In all nations throughout our world.

About breathing, Nancy. It’s too late, We’ve been recycling air since the planet came into existence.

We aren’t even certain when that happened.

nrhatch - October 5, 2011

I agree with much of your position.

As soon as everyone who is against the death penalty becomes a vegetarian, I’ll reconsider my stance. 😉

Personally, I have more of a problem with INNOCENT animals being slaughtered and treated inhumanely than I do with GUILTY human beings being put to death after being convicted and sentenced to die.

At least they know WHY they are going to die.

19. jannatwrites - October 5, 2011

You need to quit playing it safe and delve into tough subjects, Nancy 😉

I’m okay with the death penalty in certain cases or crimes. The problem is, that it’s difficult to know what those cases are. Just recently, someone was released from prison after DNA testing found them innocent. A jury convicted him based on the evidence – and it was wrong. So how do we know for sure the person is guilty? We don’t.

There are certain people who are just scary enough that death is best for society (Ted Bundy was one.)

nrhatch - October 5, 2011

That’s me . . . the antithesis of controversy. 😛

This is not an emotionally charged issue for me. I posted my thoughts and asked for other’s viewpoints more out of curiousity than anything. Our stance on the death penalty is so flavored by the rest of our value judgments on life that it’s rather unlikely that we’ll all see it the same way.

And, we might be better off (in the short term) putting the brakes on death edicts and spend that time cleaning up the justice system. In the meantime, I’m not bothered by judicious application of the death penalty when we KNOW whodunnit ~ Ted Bundy for example .

Thanks for weighing in, Janna.

20. Tilly Bud - October 5, 2011

You really surprised me with your stance on this one. I thought you’d be against it. Just shows that none of us are black and white.

nrhatch - October 5, 2011

PURPLE is my favorite color . . . others may prefer YELLOW, RED, BLUE, or TURQUOISE. We all have a right to choose our favorite color.

I didn’t post this to convince anyone that I am “right” and they are “wrong.” After responding to Pseu’s post, I decided to share my thoughts and see if anyone else wanted to weigh in.

Putting a convicted felon to death when we KNOW whodunnit doesn’t bother me ~ it seems more humane than caging them for life. I’d much rather see an animal die than suffer.

21. Team Oyeniyi - October 5, 2011

And here a few articles ago I said I odten agree with you because we think alike a lot of the time. Not on this topic, though, it seems. 🙂

I do not agree with the death penalty. I am a firm believer that two wrongs do not make a right and killing in retaliation doesn’t change the fact that killing is, in my view, fundamentally wrong.

Now, this is strange, perhaps, as I would have no difficulty castrating child abusers, for example. I would have no problem ensuring parents had to be licenced before having children. I would ensure the unemployment benefit included food vouchers and less money so the children have a hope of getting fed properly.

I just can’t agree with the death penalty.

nrhatch - October 5, 2011

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Robyn.

I didn’t post this to sway people from their beliefs. I just felt like sharing my current views on the death penalty while inviting others to weigh in on the subject if inclined to do so.

I could pull the switch and end someone’s life if I KNEW they did IT. I don’t view it as “two wrongs making a right” . . . no punishment undoes the misdeed. But I don’t view capital punishment as inherently immoral.

in contrast, I could NEVER castrate someone myself. I don’t even like cutting up dead chickens.

22. nuvofelt - October 5, 2011

My feeling is that it will be reinstated at some point. I have to admit that I sway from side to side. I’m just grateful that I don’t have to make the decision.

nrhatch - October 5, 2011

It’s probably as good a “fence” as any to sit on, nuvofelt.

When we have strong views on any subject we tend to close our eyes and ears to other viewpoints.

Being open minded is a good thing.

23. Chad - October 5, 2011

Can we have the death penalty just for Wall Street executives and managers? Red-handed murderers don’t bother me so much, they can have life in prison.

nrhatch - October 5, 2011

I disagree with the proposition that ONLY Wall Street executives deserve the death penalty.

But thanks for sharing your view of the world with us, Chad.

Chad - October 5, 2011

I did not say anything about “deserving.” The real reason we shouldn’t have a death penalty at all is because one can easily come up with a reason for any given person – anybody at all – why they “deserve” to die. If our standard as a society is “What REASON do we have to LET you LIVE?” we have become far too bloodthirsty. Clearly I was being half-serious.

nrhatch - October 5, 2011

Oh, you were just joking? You seemed so serious. 😛

Chad - October 5, 2011

I am doubly serious. We should not put anybody to death, that is true, but it is also true that there are crimes that make murder and rape seem like petty offenses. Of course these are the crimes that usually go unpunished

nrhatch - October 5, 2011

I would never view murder or rape as “petty offenses.” Thanks again for sharing your view of the world.

Chad - October 5, 2011

It is an old and boring trick to interpret someone’s words in the least favorable light, presenting that interpretation as the person’s authentic views. I said there are crimes much worse than murder and rape, which make them *seem* petty in comparison. As a lawyer, you no doubt picked up on that nuance and chose to ignore it.
For example, stealing one billion dollars through fraud, illegal financial practices, or even through common labor exploitation is equivalent to enslaving entire generations of an entire small community. So, which is truly worse, I kill you and make a quick end of it or I make you and your entire line (or entire nations) spend your life’s labor for my (or my class’s) sole gain and benefit? This is an easy one for me.

nrhatch - October 5, 2011

You often interpret my words in the least favorable light . . . I thought I would pay you the ultimate compliment by emulating your lead. 😎

Chad - October 5, 2011

I found it amusing. Thanks. 😀

24. Andra Watkins - October 5, 2011

Such a tough subject. While I believe a person does not deserve to live if they are evil enough to take the life of another, I don’t believe the thought of his/her own death will deter an evil person from killing. Capital punishment doesn’t work as a deterrent to murder, but it does rid our tax rolls of the burden of support of truly evil people. In most cases, I have supported the idea of it throughout my life.

nrhatch - October 5, 2011

Good points. The death penalty may deter those who are a bit “less evil” from killing, giving them “cause for pause.”

It’s hard to take that poll and get accurate stats:

Q. Have you ever considering taking someone else’s life and refrained from doing so because of the death penalty?

Please check the most applicable answer:

1. Yes. Dozens of times.
2. Yes. On occasion.
3. Yes. At least once.
4. What death penalty?
5. What was the question?
6. No. I kill whenever I want to. The death penalty isn’t a factor.
7. No. I believe in the sanctity of life. I wouldn’t kill even in self defense.

25. sarsm - October 5, 2011

Thanks for the mention.

It’s an interesting debate.

You’re right of course, some times we just know, there is absolute proof. Also I think the really dangerous ones are those who show no remorse.

I tell my 4yo there aren’t any monsters out there, so she won’t be afraid but it’s, sadly, not true.

nrhatch - October 5, 2011

I would tell my 4-year-old the same thing.

I saw a blog post recently where a parent tried to explain the horror of 9/11 to their 4 year old so they would understand the import of the 10 year anniversary of that tragedy. He told his son about the hijacked planes and the blown up buildings and terrorists, etc.

Sharing that level of detail with a 4-year-old seems odd to me ~ just tell him that we’re celebrating heroes like firemen and policemen.

Plenty of time for tiny tots to realize what a dangerous place this can be once they’ve left pre-school.

26. sarsm - October 5, 2011

It’s absolutely odd, the poor child will grow up disturbed.

4 should be a magical age of excitement, adventure, humour and learning. There’s enough time to be scared witless by our world later on.

nrhatch - October 5, 2011

Just so.

27. Hada - October 5, 2011

We acknowledge that the system is flawed, and we know that dozens of individuals who had been sentenced to death based on flawed or even perjurious eye witness testimony have been exonerated by DNA evidence. Sure, in theory, the death penalty might be warranted when guilt can be proven with absolute certainty. But who determines what is absolute certainty? And what is absolute certainty? How is it different from “beyond a resonable doubt”? No judicial system will ever be capable of determining guilt with absolute certainty. That is the primary reason why I’m opposed to the death penalty. There are others.

nrhatch - October 6, 2011

Thanks, Hada. Absolute certainty . . . Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley might rise to that level. Of course, they’re bad examples since they are “not all there.” If we watch someone pull the trigger moments before they are apprehended at the scene, we CAN be absolutely certain. If all fingers are pointed in the same direction AND there is DNA evidence to substantiate guilt, we can be absolutely certain.

28. Sandra Bell Kirchman - October 6, 2011

I saw this post yesterday, but waited until today to let my thoughts and emotions settle before replying. You will understand when you see my story.

When I was 16, my father was killed by another man. Briefly, he had run out of gas late at night and was hitchhiking home (about 30 miles away). The driver of the car stopped for him and he sat between the driver and the passenger in the front.

After talking to him a while, the men decided he must have a lot of money on him. The man in the middle of the back seat reach forward and put his arm around my dad’s throat while the two in the front mugged him. He didn’t have much, and they threw him out on the road, where he died during the night of partial strangulation and exposure. He was 40 years old.

The police caught him shortly afterwards and he was remanded for trial. This happened in Canada; instead of a district attorney, we have a crown attorney – essentially the same thing though. Anyhow, this crown attorney decided to go for murder. The one thing they couldn’t prove was premeditation, which is required for murder apparently. The jury found him not guilty of murdering my father. The CA couldn’t go for manslaughter after that because of double jeopardy. The guy, the driver, and his buddies were all released.

A month later, this same guy was arrested in a Flin Flon, Manitoba bus station for mugging an 86-year-old man for 96 cents.

So…here is the dilemma. This man was responsible for my father’s death. The one man in the car (who jumped out of the car later and went to the police) testified as to what happened. There was no doubt he did it or ordered it done. Yet he was released. I believe at the time Canada had the death penalty (that was September, 1957). What’s the answer? Is it right to let a killer (whether a murderer or a manslaughterer) go to do the same thing again (and maybe again)?

After 54 years, I am still bitter, although I have tried my hardest to forgive everyone involved in this situation. I think the hardest thing to forgive was the fact that they had him and they threw the chance away for a splashy finish. I didn’t need vengeance, just justice.

nrhatch - October 6, 2011

Thanks for sharing that Sandra. How awful.

So many of us are touched by violent crime. How is it that we haven’t learned to be “more civilized”? It is 2011 and we are still so badly behaved

29. BOOK Excerpt | The Death of Innocents « Anonymous® Radio Show - October 11, 2011

[…] Death Penalty: Pro Con? Or Against ‘Em? (nrhatch.wordpress.com) […]

30. You Were Born To Succeed - January 13, 2012

I used to be a death-penalty advocate, and I’m not sure that I’ve changed my mind. But I wonder about forgiveness – and healing – and karma. If one person murders another, maybe the murderer was paying back the murderee for something the murderee did, and maybe that’s fair. If someone is executed for a crime he didn’t commit, is that karma for something he did once upon a time? Possibly. And if someone can forgive the murderer of their child, could it be that they would be healed of the anger and grief? I’ve seen forgiveness do some powerful things. But I am still wondering about all this.

nrhatch - January 13, 2012

Same here, Nancy ~ I know that I am not opposed in all instances to application of the death penalty . . . but I’m not convinced that it’s always applied with an “even hand” or even for the “right” reasons.

And, WOW! Karma adds another dimension entirely to the discussion, doesn’t it?

You’ve raised some interesting scenarios: Maybe someone “wrongfully” put to death is settling a karmic debt from the past? Maybe someone murdered in this lifetime brought that karma onto themselves?

Because we are not likely to understand the full interplay of karmic threads, I believe that it is important for us (as individuals) to forgive others for their all-too-human failings.

Failure to forgive is like swallowing poisoning and hoping it hurts them. It doesn’t. We are poisoning ourselves.

In any event, I don’t know that forgiveness on an individual level precludes application of the death penalty on a societal level.

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