Misplaced Priorities

I support the death penalty in every possible way – except one . We’ve been through this before.  Ed and I talked about this a few weeks ago on the show, on the news that Missouri, California and Florida have enacted moritoria on the death penalty; we’re both unusual among conservatives in opposing the death penalty,  for reasons as different as we are.
One of those reasons is  not the welfare of the killers.  And it’s this misplaced soft-heartedness that animates this Strib editorial.

In California and Missouri, federal judges have ruled that the states’ procedures for putting inmates to death with lethal injections violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishments. In Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush has suspended executions after it took 34 apparently painful minutes for an inmate to die; the needle that was to feed a three-drug mix into his bloodstream missed his veins and instead pushed the drugs into soft tissue. Face it: Killing people humanely is all but impossible, and that’s a good reason to stop the practice entirely.

No, not really.  The Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment – the British colonists were as creative when it came to executing the condemned, burning and piling rocks on and drawing and quartering with the glee of little boys killing ripping the wings off moths; the founding fathers realized that a judicial system needed to remove gratuitous emotion from the legal system.

That executions get botched on occasion means that humans are fallible (and that the doctors that removed themselves from the death penalty system for hippocratic reasons are buying their peace of mind with the pain of the condemned prisoner whose injection is carried out by a less-qualified technician)k, not that the death penalty is wrong in and of itself.

…perhaps the American public is ready to accept that “humane executions” are a contradiction in terms and that the time has come finally to end this barbaric practice.

I really doubt it.  I think a lot of Americans would be happy to kill child killers Chinese-style, with a single bullet to the back of the head; humane, and emotionally gratifying.

Supporters of capital punishment ask why all the concern over the pain inmates feel when they are put to death. After all, they say, it’s less pain than the convicted murderers inflicted on their victims.

Indeed, but is that a justification anyone should take seriously? They inflicted great pain on their victims so we’re free to inflict pain on them? What does that make us?


Therein lies the central point, which death-penalty advocates frequently miss: At its heart, the capital punishment debate isn’t really about those put to death and whether they are comfortable. It’s about the American public and the values it desires to uphold, which play a large role in shaping society’s behavior. A society that kills people who kill people debases itself by cheapening life.

I must inevitably choke on the irony of a newspaper that supports abortion on demand making a statement like that.

No, there is one reason and one reason only that the death penalty is wrong – the inevitability of killing the innocent at some point or another, which would be vastly crueller than a botched injection; it kills an innocent person, and ensures the guilty will never pay for the crime.

I have no problem killing the right person.  The Eighth Amendment means we need to keep emotion and untrammelled vengeance out of the process.  That executions are botched is not a black mark on the death penalty, but a sign we need better executioners.

But since we can never guarantee with absolute 100% certitude that we’ve got the right person strapped to the gurney – and I do believe that the ethical case to accept nothing less than 100% is airtight – it should be a moot point.

3 thoughts on “Misplaced Priorities

  1. Do you think execution (or assisted suicide) should be allowed in cases where a convicted criminal requests it?

    In a marginally related topic, how about assisted suicide in general?

  2. Do you think execution (or assisted suicide) should be allowed in cases where a convicted criminal requests it?

    Nope. That’s the deal about prison – you really don’t get to choose much.

    In a marginally related topic, how about assisted suicide in general?

    In general, I’m opposed.

  3. Pingback: Shot in the Dark » Blog Archive » Limits of Dogma

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