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Is Capital Punishment Ever Justified?

September 22nd, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Two news stories caught my attention this morning.  One about the execution of convicted cop killer, Troy Davis and the other regarding the execution of white supremacist, Lawrence Russell Brewer.  Two men, two executions — yet, the discussions concerning both are very different.

Many claim (including Davis himself), that Davis was an innocent man being put to death.  There were international protests, sparking celebrities to use their star power to support a stay of execution.  In the end, Davis died at the hands of the Georgia judicial system.  Meanwhile, Brewer’s execution was met with little pleas for leniency – other than from the victim’s family who wanted Brewer’s sentence to be commuted to life in prison.  Despite the wishes of the victim’s family, Brewer met a similar fate as Davis.

In my opinion, neither of these executions should have gone forth.  Davis’ case is wrought with doubt, which clearly (to me, at least) should have led to a stay of execution.  Brewer’s case is a bit different.  His guilt is less questioned; however, the victim’s family steadfastly opposed the execution.  In this instance, I believe the wishes of the family should have been considered.

In broader terms, is capital punishment ever justified?  My belief is that in a civilized society, it isn’t.  Killing is not ‘civilized’.  Furthermore, the irony of this discussion is that justice systems in ‘civilized’ societies have a mandate to protect the rights of their prisoners.  In many cases this means suitable living conditions, access to adequate nutrition, medical care, the pursuit of higher learning, the right to vote, access to various forms of entertainment, etc.  In ‘civilized’ societies, where the death penalty exists, these rights may be granted to death row inmates.  Yet, the right to life is not.  It’s seems like a tragic irony that these institutions spend untold amounts of money keeping prisoners healthy and well that they are eventually going to kill.

Personally, I think the solution is to abolish the death penalty and simultaneously start clawing back some of the ‘perks’ enjoyed by the most hardened criminals.  I don’t believe ‘civilized’ societies should be in the business of killing.  Neither do I believe that the worst of criminals should enjoy what average, law-abiding citizens work hard to obtain (such as a university or college education or access to cable television).  Sure we must treat all people with some level of dignity, but should murderers be treated better than law-abiding citizens?  Hell, no!

For me, killing is not the best option we have in a civilized society.  Nor do we have to grant heinous criminals the good things in life that many citizens struggle to obtain.  The monsters among society should be locked up with the absolute basic necessities to ensure a long and miserable life behind bars.  No access to the internet, television, or education.  They lost those pursuits when they barbarically took another life.

Somehow, I doubt we’ve heard the last of the Davis case.  Was he innocent?  I don’t know.  The facts of the case certainly support doubt of his guilt.  That, for me, is enough to take a long hard look at capital punishment.  I also doubt that this is the first case of a potentially innocent man being put to death.  For me, that equates to murder.  In these cases, how will justice be found for the potentially innocent citizens killed by the societies meant to protect them?

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