Sep 1, 2007

popular attitudes toward the death penalty

Yes, because of the current resolution, I'm going to take this Onion article quite seriously. Each satirical response to Texas's 400th execution since 1976 illustrates a painful truth about the death penalty and the victims'* search for justice.
"I commend Rick Perry for having the courage to protect his constituents. Well done, Governor, and please don't kill me."
It is probable that the State executes an innocent, from time to time. This probability, some abolitionists claim, makes all of us, even the good, live in mortal terror of the State, coerced into proper behavior at the point of a slow-firing gun.

Even if the death penalty could be applied without error, it would still inspire dread enough to limit human freedom. Ironically, this perspective is adopted both by libertarian abolitionists, who view it as immoral, and proponents, who view it as effective in reducing crime.
"I hope that once the prisoner was brought into the death chamber, the guards surprised him with confetti, balloons, and an oversized syringe."
As a ritual of personal justice, the death penalty is absurd. The average federal capital case languishes over 3 years in court. The condemned exhaust every appeal opportunity--and why shouldn't they?

In the intervening years, some victims will forgive the offender, even to the point of wishing them to remain alive, if imprisoned. Others will grow frustrated and bitter with the tardy arrival of justice. Dr. King once said, "Justice delayed is justice denied," and the death penalty is certainly delayed justice.
"I'm really conflicted about this. While I'm against the death penalty, I'm a huge sucker for milestones."
Some abolitionists argue that capital punishment persists not because it is an effective deterrent, but because it is enormously popular. Politicians tout it (along with "3 strikes laws") as a way to "get tough on crime," using fear as a powerful political weapon. Though Immanuel Kant famously argued that the death penalty is a categorical imperative, a modern-day Kantian could claim that this sort of scapegoating uses criminals as means to an end, a violation of their inherent dignity.

Also, just so you know, recently Governor Perry commuted the sentence of Kenneth Foster. He was accused of caving to political pressure.

*Obviously "victims" does not refer to the immediate victim in non-fatal cases. I figured I'd pre-empt any snark on this one.


Martino said...

What amazes me is people who are for the death penalty and against abortion. I mean if you support killing, then you should support all killing. And if you value life, then you should value all life.

Anonymous said...

Um. Yeah except that the people who are for abortion are killing INNOCENT BABIES instead of people who have raped/tortured/murdered/sodomized other people and been found guilty of it and should die. kthxbye.