I am a pro-life conservative who believes in the limited use of the death penalty. Some will argue that “God is the only being in this life who is allowed to judge other’s sin. He can forgive, and he is the one who ultimately judges sin.” I completely and unequivocally agree with that statement. However, we are humans. We aren’t perfect, and we aren’t God. Yes, Jesus said, “He who is without sin may cast the first stone.”
If you’re going to use that as an example, please be mindful of how it does not pertain to capital punishment. In Scripture, the setting that quote comes from is when a adulteress was cast to the ground, and was about to be stoned to death. As one possible witness said to Jesus, “The Hebrew law allows us to do this.” She had committed no serious crime, and the men’s actions were completely uncalled for. This example does not pertain to this argument. And besides, is a judge able to just say to the Green River Killer, “Depart, and sin no more. Thy sins are forgiven.” No; the judge isn’t God. As stated before: God is allowed to judge and forgive sin.
God gave us judges for a reason. They were, in part, to oversee the population and regulate the laws he gave them. However, that system has now morphed into the one we have today. In ancient history, they did have “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” However, that’s inherently flawed and you can logically come to this conclusion.
However, “capital punishment’ isn’t “an eye for an eye”. If I were allowed to define the “Purpose of Capital Punishment”, I would say: “It is an act which is meant to show extreme offenders of the law and takers of life what will happen to them if they break the laws to an extreme extent or inflict massive amounts of harm on humanity.”
I’ll use the Parkland shooting as my primary example. The shooter (one who should not be named), shot and killed over 17 individuals on February 14th, 2018. What happened at Stoneman Douglas High was a tragedy, and one I would never want to see happen again. However, the shooter who did the action was a demented person. He showed no remorse at the trial, nor has he shown any public signs of regret for what he did. He senselessly took the lives of 17 of his classmates and teachers. What did we do to him? Threw him in prison, with no chance of bail. We gave him a place to sleep, eat, and grow old. We even let him vote. What about all of those students and teachers who lost their lives? Don’t they get their chance at seeing their murderer get his? Again, I’m not in favor of ‘revenge murder’. However, this kid isn’t going to change his mind on what he did. Some people just don’t.
Now, am I saying he deserved ‘the chair’ as soon as we caught him? Not at all. We should allow him a free and fair trial. If the consequences of his actions are listed as “capital punishment’ or ‘the death penalty’, then we should have sufficient evidence that he did the crime. We have dozens of eyewitnesses to his murders; we have video evidence of him being arrested. We have video, audio, and written evidence he did the action. DNA on the weapon could show he actually did the crime as well. Now, we move on to the jury. If the jury finds him innocent after all of that, then we can’t stop the judge from denying the prosecution’s charges and proposed results. That’s how the law works. It happened with OJ Simpson, and it could happen again. However, we need to have this procedure done in order to know who should go to Death Row and who shouldn’t.
I do agree with the notion that we have ‘too many on Death Row’ already. Fine; let’s go through and examine each individual case-by-case. Let’s see who’s really guilty and who isn’t. That should lessen the load of people who should be there. Let’s then go through and see their crimes. Did they murder +10 people? Was it intentional? Do they now show true, genuine remorse for what they did? If the last two come out as “Yes”, then let’s take them off Death Row. They won’t be allowed out of jail; however, they will be taken off the list for “The Chair”.
Now, what crimes are deserving of death? I’d say intentional and non-regretful murderers deserve to be on the list. Or, how about serial rapists? What about sex traffickers? No, drug smugglers or dealers should not be on the list. Home invaders? Case-by-case examination. Assassins? Again, case-by-case examination. Traitors to the state or government? Case-by-case examination. Captured foes? Case-by case.
If you notice, I am not an “all-out-death-penalty” guy. I want there to be the option of the death penalty for those who have committed heinous crimes, but not for those who were coerced into doing those actions, or were unable to do otherwise. If you’re threatened with your life, wouldn’t you want to get out of that situation the easiest way? I would. What I am calling for is the option of the death penalty in the most serious of cases. It shouldn’t be readily available, and the qualifications for the use of it should be so high that few criminals achieve them. If we had captured Osama Bin Ladin, I would have advocated for a private “execution”. I would not want it to be broadcasted to the public, only to be reported on afterwards.
The reason I advocate for “Limited Capital Punishment” is in response to those who claim “Free allowance or access to capital punishment will lead to it’s overuse and unnecessary deaths.” In the ancient times, they did not have access to DNA, video, or audio evidence when prosecuting a charged citizen with a crime. They did not have the documentation or surveillance feeds we use today. They did not have the justice system we have today. Back in 18th century France, they did not allow for a ‘Free and fair trial before a judge and jury’. You weren’t considered “Innocent until proven guilty”. In fact, the opposite was the case: in that time period, you were considered “Guilty” until proven innocent. So, if you had only one eyewitness or small pieces of evidence proving your innocence, you’d need to work very hard in order to prove the jury wrong. And even today: what happens if your jury is made up of political activists, or those with a political motive to see you put behind bars? There was no gate that needed to be open in order for you to be thrown under the Head-Removal Instrument. In fact, hundreds were killed due to mob rule. There was no laws considering your right to an attorney, or your right to being considered innocent.
Our nation nowadays has a system that does it’s best to safeguard against unfair or wrong punishment. Our criminal justice system is probably the best when it comes to treating the accused fairly, and I see no possibility of that fairness leaving us anytime soon. The constitution defends against it.
Peter also writes for The Political Curriculum. Follow him on Twitter @realPeterMoon.