: I wrote this writeup in response to another writeup that advanced the thesis that we as a society owe it to the victims' surviving relatives to execute murderers, particularly notorious ones like Timothy McVeigh. The original writeup has been deleted, but I have decided to keep this one because the sentiment of the original has been expressed at many other times and in many other places, and it still deserves to be rebutted.
Pardon me for saying so, but I don't see how executing
a convicted murderer demonstrates compassion
for the murderer's victims. I can't say that I'm paritcularly philosophically opposed to capital punishment
, at least, not under a hypothetical
system that never miscarries, but I don't see why it is a moral imperative
that the state satisfy the victims' families' understandable, but still misguided, thirst for vengeance
. The role of the State
in crime and punishment is to be dispassionate
, even when we as individuals cannot.
The fact is, executing the perpetrator of a heinous crime fixes nothing. The dead are still dead, and the living will have to find a way to go on with out them. It is interesting that Ryan_Dallion mentions Bud Welch, since he was quoted in a news article today. He said, ``An execution is an event, and when the sun sets on this day we're going to end up with a huge staged political event.'' The people I feel for the most are those who were counting on this particular event to make everything right that Timothy McVeigh mangled in their lives. I fear they will find that at the end of this particular day this particular event has little relevance for them.
The reasons against capital punishment have been discussed at length in a number of forums. The truth is that our criminal justice system, in its zeal to see that somebody is punished for these vile crimes, sometimes railroads the first plausible suspect that comes along. Innocent people have undoubtedly been executed because of this. In light of those concerns, I think capital punishment needs a compelling reason in order to justify its continuation, and thus far no such reason has been forthcoming.
It's easy to hold McVeigh up as a pro-capital punishment poster child. The man is a monster, and he neither denied nor showed remorse for his crime. But all murders are not the Oklahoma City bombing, and all murderers are not Timothy McVeigh. When crafting the law we must look at all of the cases it will be called upon to judge, not just the few exceptions that capture the eye of the media.
: Attributing differences in crime rates between one nation and another to one specific factor seems specious
to me. How do we know the lower murder rate in Saudi Arabia isn't due to the the stronger influence of Islam
in that country? Or maybe there's a difference in the availability of weapons. Maybe it's just the weather.
Personally, I'm skeptical of the deterrent value of capital punishment because most murderers aren't thinking that far ahead when they commit their crimes. Murder is not generally a rational crime, and precious few engage in a detailed cost-benefit analysis when they kill somebody. For that matter, I suspect that it's a rare murderer that wakes up in the morning and says to him self, ``Why, bless me, I do believe I'm going to kill somebody today.'' Maybe McVeigh did, but then the threat of the death penalty didn't exactly deter him.
Conversely, it's not clear to me that capital punishment is necessary to deter people from committing vile crimes like murder. If it is, then we're pretty much doomed. When people obey the law only out of fear of reprisal, can anarchy be far behind?
Finally, I think that in deciding whether or not to keep the death penalty we should ask ourselves not, ``Are we meting out the penalty justly?'' (we almost certainly are not), but ``Can this ultimate penalty ever be meted out justly?'' The sheer number of death row inmates that have been vindicated over the years, not to mention the confirmed cases of prosecutorial misconduct have convinced me that the marginal benefits of executions cannot outweigh the injustices.