Thursday, September 22, 2011

Death Penalty Blurs Value Of Life

Our country executed two more death row inmates yesterday.  There may very well have been more; but the press only reported on the two.
The first was an inmate from Texas who was convicted of a hate crime; that having chained the victim to the bumper of his truck he then dragged him through the streets of town until dead.  The second was a Georgia inmate who was convicted of shooting an off-duty police officer during the commission of another crime.  One white, one black; both receiving our society’s ultimate justice for their crimes. 
Texas Governor Rick Perry has presided over 235 executions during his ten years as governor.  When asked during a recent debate about the seemingly large number of executions in his state he very calmly and thoughtfully said: (paraphrasing) “if you kill someone in Texas you will receive the ultimate justice.”  The partisan crowd in attendance cheered and applauded his response.
We do not condone the use of the death penalty in our justice system.  In a nation that otherwise places the highest value on one human life we do not understand how it can arbitrarily take the life of another…no matter the crime. 
Consider this:  our justice system is fraught with cases every day where a prosecutor arbitrarily withdraws the death penalty in exchange for a confession.  Some of the most brutal killers ever put on the face of this earth are allowed to live in order to defer the cost of a lengthy trail.  How do we then decide with any sense of moral certainty who lives and who dies? 
It doesn’t make any sense.  We hold life so dear that our physicians go to extraordinary lengths to save the life of terminal patients knowing if that the patient survives the surgery they will live their final hours in pain and suffering or in a comatose state.  We prosecute persons who would assist others intent on ending their own lives rather than live in such a depleted condition.  Our first responders put their lives on the line every day, risking the lives of many to save just one.   And let us not forget the men and women of the military who will lay down their life for one of their brothers or sisters in arms; including putting their life at risk to retrieve the remains of a fallen comrade.  Many believe that a human being exits at the time of conception and to abort that embryonic cell is murder.
So if we hold one life so dear how do we justify the taking of another through the courts?  
Do we allow the death penalty to occur as a form of deterrent against others who may contemplate similar crimes?  If so we need to find another solution.  The death penalty has been in place for decades yet 16,000 people are murdered in this country every year.  Does it bring closure to the families of the victims?  Doubtful, because their loved ones will forever be missed.  Perhaps it’s just vengeance…an eye for an eye. 
Whatever the reason, it just seems strange to us that a country that places such a high value on a single life can maintain a system of justice where that same life can be used as a bargaining chip in order to procure a confession.  But even more shocking, is that a society that places such a high value on one life would dare to risk the possibility of wrongly extinguishing the life of an innocent person.
Is the death penalty the right punishment for those who have taken another life?  We don’t think so; but many others have argued convincingly in opposition to our opinion.
We do know this…the execution of 235 lives is never cause for celebration.


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