As alluded to in an earlier post, The Sun has a campaign running to re-introduce capital punishment. Anna has had a couple of articles about the same subject over at her place. I had starting composing a comment before I realised it was going to go on a bit, so decided to express myself here instead.
There are several points as to why I oppose the death penalty completely;
Firstly – If someone were to kill someone close to me, and I went and killed them, I would be, quite rightly, charged with murder. I see no difference between me going and killing someone and the State going and killing someone on my behalf.
Secondly – Taking the above into account, I see no distinction between the two acts, yet if I were to do it, it would be described as revenge. If the State did it, it would be described as ‘justice’. How is it just? It is not justice, it is revenge. Revenge carried out in the heat of the moment is bad enough, but revenge as a dish served cold? That really is chilling.
Thirdly – The signal it sends out is clear; you belong to the State. If the State has the power to decide to let you live or to condemn you to death then it takes the ultimate in power over our lives. Oh, sure there’ll be conditions and qualifiers and what-not, but things change. Remember the free trade block we joined? That’s all it was. How’s it looking now? No. I belong to me and no-one, no-one at all has the authority to say if I deserve to live or die.
Fourthly – It simply doesn’t act as a deterrent. It just doesn’t. Figures from the US show that the number of people on death row in 1968 was 517. In 2010 it was 3242. Granted, you are most unlikely to be executed in the year of your conviction, but even so, if the death penalty was effective we should still expect to see that 1968 figure decreasing, or at least holding steady.
Fifthly – How does locking someone up for 15 years in prison and then killing them constitute justice? If someone’s been sentenced to death, then take them down and kill them. Keeping them hanging around for a decade is expensive, and I would submit, perverse. What are we doing? Teaching them a lesson? Surely the point of doing that is so the offender can see the error of their ways and not do it again of their own free will. Teaching them the lesson and then killing them is a lesson wasted.
Sixthly – For what offences will the death sentence be handed down? The Sun goes for killing children and policemen. Well, what about little old ladies, what about terrorist attacks? How about planning terrorist attacks? Drug smuggling? Human trafficking? Rape? Arson? How about a crime of passion? Showing dissent and disrespect to the State? Eco-crimes? Being a pain in the arse? As I said earlier, that which is implemented today can look very different tomorrow. Once you give them that tool, they will use it and they will expand its use.
Seventhly – What when (and it will be when, not if) you get it wrong? Is it really acceptable to kill an innocent person? This all comes about because an innocent person has been killed, does killing an innocent person in return make it OK? Will ‘sorry’, a posthumous pardon and a compo payout to the relatives make that better? The phrase ‘for the greater good’ looms large in my mind here – that is a phrase which means individuals are worthless, and that if a mistake is made it is regretful but irrelevant, it is for some greater good.
Finally – What method do we use? Stoning? Oh, no, that’s too barbaric. No, no, you want a method that does the job, but doesn’t actually make someone feel like they’re killing another person, even though that’s what they’re doing. It means the executioner will not get upset and add a veneer of respectability to proceedings. Firing squad? Too military? Oh, OK. Guillotine? Too French. Hanging? A bit old school. Electric chair? Yeah, well, I’ve seen The Green Mile. Lethal injection, then. Yes, that’s nice and clinical, isn’t it? Again, I don’t know which is more horrific, the blind fury of a public stoning, or the cold calculated practice of tying someone to a table and injecting them with a cocktail of fatal chemicals.
If we absolutely have to have the death penalty, then I suggest it must be at the unanimous request of the immediate family of the victim and with the agreement of both judge and jury in unanimity. The entire immediate family of the victim (including children) and the entire jury and judge must be present at the execution, and the condemned must be killed by way of beheading, and the beheading must be carried out by a member of the family of the victim no more than three years from the date of conviction or dismissal of appeal. The family member will be obliged to take breakfast at the same table with the condemned on the appointed day. The remaining family, judge and jury must stand face on to the condemned as the sentence is carried out, in the same room, and at a distance of no more than four metres.
There will be no repeat performances, and any failure to meet the conditions above will lead to an automatic commuting to a life sentence.
The good Cap’n has similar thoughts.