The Death Penalty

There are many ways of killing people and humanity seems to have a taste for death closely followed by a taste for mourning; this is what we learn from great wars. However, in peacetime, some nations kill their citizens as a result of a judicial process. I have always thought the death penalty as barbaric, uncivilised and flawed. It certainly is flawed in that mistakes happen and when a person is executed it is too late to make restitution if it is found that the person should not have been executed.

The United States of America seems to proudly boast of its propensity to execute people. It is one of the few developed nations which retain and almost gleefully implement the death penalty. Each state in America has different rules about execution. the most common method is by lethal injection, but surprisingly the USA does not manufacture the chemicals required for lethal injections and European nations which do make them are becoming increasingly reluctant to allow these chemicals to be exported to enable the USA to execute people.

As a result of a shortage of chemicals Oklahoma is seeking to re-institute the firing squad as a means of execution. It is also seeking to allow execution by placing a person in a nitrogen chamber, so that the person may suffocate to death, apparently painlessly.

So far humanity has used beheadings, stoning, the garotte, the guillotine, the noose, the firing squad, lethal injections and electrocution as means of ending life for those found to suffer the death sentence by some judicial process. Humans are relatively frail. Killing them is an easy option and one that once done is irretrievable. It is fundamentally unjust.

10 Responses

  1. What makes the human species so special that its lives are intrinsically sacrosanct?

    We perform mass killing on all the other inhabitants of this planet just because we can and just because they are, for the most part, unable to retaliate.

  2. I was reading about this earlier today. I was suitably horrified. This nation that boasts of its abundance of ‘freedom’, its democracy, its progressive beliefs!!! Absolutely barbaric. How can anyone ever be 100% certain of another individual’s guilt? You cannot. Therefore, the death penalty should be eliminated. I realise the cost of incarcerating someone until the end of their life is costly but the USA has one of the highest rates of incarcerated people per capita in the world, the majority in there for drug-related offences. Perhaps they should also reevaluate their stance on drugs.
    Enjoyed your post

  3. I think its a poor argument against the death penalty to say someone might be wrongly found guilty. On that basis we should never even imprison criminals unless they confess under oath.

    Also, why do we permit our armed forces to kill threatening foreigners? Surely that’s wrong too. What are the moral limits on self preservation?

    What about so called freedom fighters? What about our PM authorising our planes to attack Libya or celebrating the death of Gadaffi or Saddam in the name of liberation from oppression?

    Aren’t our views on death and killing more a matter of convenience than conviction?

    In fact when discussing the rulers of the USA, aren’t their views on killing just an issue of how to make more money?

    I understand that the USA has the highest percentage of prison inmates because prisons are owned and run by big corporations. Corporations who infiltrate government to ensure more and more incarceration for minor offences. Google Corrections Corporation of America.

    • I would disagree that it’s a poor argument against the death penalty to say that someone might be wrongly found guilty. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, over 151 people have been exonerated from death row since 1973, whereas 1,404 people have been executed since 1976. They suggest that at the very least, 39 people were executed in light of evidence that suggested innocence. While that may be 3% of executions, 10% of people sentenced are being found innocent.

      Justice cannot hinge simply on statistics, sure, but not can it be mandated by such simple notions of retribution, especially when we talk about innocence.

      While I certainly understand that being freed after wrongful conviction is not irreversible in many ways, they at least still have their life. There can be no justification in killing an innocent person, especially in context of a state sanctioned one. If the state is to be the arbiter of life in death, surely it must be as devoid of imperfections as possible.

      My argument is simply this: resolve the racial imbalance (31 white inmates for murdering black victim as opposed to 293 black inmates for white victims), resolve the other prosecutorial mishaps, bad defenders, etc, and clearly define who is absolutely deserving to be executed, and completely reexamine the cases of every convicted person on death row at this moment to weed out wrongful convictions and innocence, and then we can talk about the death penalty.

      Justice, as it stands in light of the death penalty, is simply not being upheld.

  4. Imprisoning someone for a crime they did not commit (but you think they did) is different than taking their life for that reason. It is irreversible decision. At least if they are simply in prison and new evidence is discovered, they can be released.

  5. Wickedtragic, wrongful imprisonment is not reversible either. The lost portion of freedom cannot cannot be given back. That is why irreversibility is no good as an argument.

  6. I disagree. At least when you get out after years of wrongful imprisonment you are still alive.

    • Contributors’ contentions that irreversibility is a good argument against the death penalty logically accept that where there is genuine guilt, say unimpeachably due to a confession, the death penalty must be an acceptable state sanction.

      That is why it is a poor argument. If there were no mistrials or miscarriages, the, according to this argument the death penalty is acceptable.

      In my view, if a nation state/religion/tribe etc can legitimately murder its own citizens, guilty or not, that, in my view, is unacceptable.

      That is my point.

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