Sunday, July 13, 2008

An argument against capital punishment.

I'm not a supporter of the death penalty. I think my #1 reason is that if someone is executed, and evidence later arises that the person was innocent, there is no prisoner still alive to release.
So what can they do, put flowers on the grave?

Why execute?Because it's cheaper? It's not. It takes more money to litigate an execution than to feed a prisoner for a lifetime. Because it deters? It doesn't work as a deterrent. Statistical evidence is not on the side of the argument from deterrence. Because the killer deserves it? Is execution better than death for the criminal? And if the criminal tortured the victim, should the criminal be tortured in turn? What if he's a rapist?

26 comments:

philip m said...

I am wondering about the impact of theology on a Christians opinion of capital punishment. Since we all deserve death all the time, is there an act a person could do that ought to compel us to execute them? All of our sinful acts render death the just consequence, so if we execute a person for one of them, isn't that being inconsistent with our theology? But even more so, we not only believe that there is justice, but grace as well, which would seem another inconsistency in supporting someone's death.

dudleysharp said...

You have some assumptions which do not stand up.

The Death Penalty in the US: A Review
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below
 
NOTE: Detailed review of any of the below topics, or others, is available upon request
 
In this brief format, the reality of the death penalty in the United States, is presented, with the hope that the media, public policy makers and others will make an effort to present a balanced view on this sanction.
 

Innocence Issues
 
Death Penalty opponents have proclaimed that 129 inmates have been "released from death row with evidence of their innocence", in the US, since the modern death penalty era began, post Furman v Georgia (1972).
 
The number is a fraud.
 
Those opponents have intentionally included both the factually innocent (the "I truly had nothing to do with the murder" cases) and the legally innocent (the "I got off because of legal errors" cases), thereby fraudulently raising the "innocent" numbers. This is easily confirmed by fact checking.
 
Death penalty opponents claim that 24 such innocence cases are in Florida. The Florida Commission on Capital Cases found that 4 of those 24 MIGHT be innocent -- an 83% error rate in for the claims of death penalty opponents. Other studies show their error rate to be about 70%. The totality of reviews points to an 80% error/fraud rate in these claims, or about 26 cases - a 0.3% actual guilt error rate for the nearly 8000 sentenced to death since 1973. 

The actual innocents were all freed.
 
It is often claimed that 23 innocents have been executed in the US since 1900.  Nonsense.  Even the authors of that "23 innocents executed" study proclaimed "We agree with our critics, we never proved those (23) executed to be innocent; we never claimed that we had."  While no one would claim that an innocent has never been executed, there is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.
 
No one disputes that innocents are found guilty, within all countries.  However, when scrutinizing death penalty opponents claims, we find that when reviewing the accuracy of verdicts and the post conviction thoroughness of discovering those actually innocent incarcerated, that the US death penalty process may be one of the most accurate criminal justice sanctions in the world. 
 
Under real world scenarios, not executing murderers will always put many more innocents at risk, than will ever be put at risk of execution.
 

Deterrence Issues
 
16 recent US studies, inclusive of their defenses,  find a deterrent effect of the death penalty.
 
All the studies which have not found a deterrent effect of the death penalty have refused to say that it does not deter some.  The studies finding for deterrence state such.  Confusion arises when people think that a simple comparison of murder rates and executions, or the lack thereof, can tell the tale of deterrence.  It cannot. 
 
Both high and low murder rates are found within death penalty and non death penalty jurisdictions, be it Singapore, South Africa, Sweden or Japan, or the US states of Michigan and Delaware.  Many factors are involved in such evaluations.  Reason and common sense tell us that it would be remarkable to find that the most severe criminal sanction -- execution -- deterred none.  No one is foolish enough to suggest that the potential for negative consequences does not deter the behavior of some.  Therefore, regardless of jurisdiction, having the death penalty will always be an added deterrent to murders, over and above any lesser punishments.
 

Racial issues
 
White murderers are twice as likely to be executed in the US as are black murderers and are executed, on average, 12 months more quickly than are black death row inmates.
 
It is often stated that it is the race of the victim which decides who is prosecuted in death penalty cases.  Although blacks and whites make up about an equal number of murder victims, capital cases are 6 times more likely to involve white victim murders than black victim murders.  This, so the logic goes, is proof that the US only cares about white victims.
 
Hardly.  Only capital murders, not all murders, are subject to a capital indictment.  Generally, a capital murder is limited to murders plus secondary aggravating factors, such as murders involving burglary, carjacking, rape, and additional murders, such as police murders, serial and multiple murders.  White victims are, overwhelmingly, the victims under those circumstances, in ratios nearly identical to the cases found on death row.
 
Any other racial combinations of defendants and/or their victims in death penalty cases, is a reflection of the crimes committed and not any racial bias within the system, as confirmed by studies from the Rand Corporation (1991), Smith College (1994), U of Maryland (2002), New Jersey Supreme Court (2003) and by a view of criminal justice statistics, within a framework of the secondary aggravating factors necessary for capital indictments.
 

Class issues
 
No one disputes that wealthier defendants can hire better lawyers and, therefore, should have a legal advantage over their poorer counterparts.  The US has executed about 0.15% of all murderers since new death penalty statutes were enacted in 1973.  Is there evidence that wealthier capital murderers are less likely to be executed than their poorer ilk, based upon the proportion of capital murders committed by different those different economic groups? Not to my knowledge.
 

Arbitrary and capricious
 
About 10% of all murders within the US might qualify for a death penalty eligible trial.  That would be about 64,000 murders since 1973.  We have sentenced 8000 murderers to death since then, or 13% of those eligible.  I doubt that there is any other crime which receives a higher percentage of maximum sentences, when mandatory sentences are not available.  Based upon that, as well as pre trial, trial, appellate and clemency/commutation realities, the US death penalty is likely the least arbitrary and capricious criminal sanctions in the  US.
 

Christianity and the death penalty
 
The two most authoritative New Testament scholars, Saints Augustine and Aquinas, provide substantial biblical and theological support for the death penalty. Even the most well known anti death penalty personality in the US, Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking, states that "It is abundantly clear that the Bible depicts murder as a capital crime for which death is considered the appropriate punishment, and one is hard pressed to find a biblical 'proof text' in either the Hebrew Testament or the New Testament which unequivocally refutes this.  Even Jesus' admonition 'Let him without sin cast the first stone,' when He was asked the appropriate punishment for an adulteress (John 8:7) -- the Mosaic Law prescribed death -- should be read in its proper context.  This passage is an 'entrapment' story, which sought to show Jesus' wisdom in besting His adversaries.  It is not an ethical pronouncement about capital punishment."  A thorough review of Pope John Paul II's position, reflects a reasoning that should be recommending more executions.
 

Cost Issues
 
All studies finding the death penalty to be more expensive than life without parole exclude important factors, such as (1) geriatric care costs, recently found to be $69,0000/yr/inmate, (2) the death penalty cost benefit of providing for plea bargains to a maximum life sentence, a huge cost savings to the state, (3) the death penalty cost benefit of both enhanced deterrence and enhanced incapacitation, at $5 million per innocent life spared, and, furthermore, (4) many of the alleged cost comparison studies are highly deceptive.
 

Polling data
 
76% of Americans find that we should impose the death penalty more or that we impose it about right (Gallup, May 2006 - 51% that we should impose it more, 25% that we impose it about right)
 
71%  find capital punishment morally acceptable - that was the highest percentage answer for all questions (Gallup, April 2006, moral values poll). In May, 2007, the percentage dropped to 66%, still the highest percentage answer, with 27% opposed. (Gallup, 5/29/07)
 
81% of the American people supported the execution of Timothy McVeigh, with only 16% opposed. "(T)his view appears to be the consensus of all major groups in society, including men, women, whites, nonwhites, "liberals" and "conservatives."  (Gallup 5/2/01).
 
81% of Connecticut citizens supported the execution of serial rapist/murderer Michael Ross (Jan 2005).
 
While 81% gave specific case support for Timothy McVeigh's execution, Gallup also showed a 65% support AT THE SAME TIME when asked a general "do you support capital punishment for murderers?" question. (Gallup, 6/10/01).
 
22% of those supporting McVeigh's execution are, generally, against the death penalty (Gallup 5/02/01). That means that about half of those who say they oppose the death penalty, with the general question,  actually support the death penalty under specific circumstances, just as it is imposed, judicially.
 
Further supporting the higher rates for specific cases, is this, from the French daily Le Monde December 2006 (1): Percentage of respondents in favor of executing Saddam Hussein:USA: 82%; Great Britain: 69%; France: 58%; Germany: 53%; Spain: 51%; Italy: 46%
 
Death penalty support is much deeper and much wider than we are often led to believe, with 50% of those who say they, generally, oppose the death penalty actually supporting it under specific circumstances, resulting in 80% death penalty support in the US, as recently as December 2006.
 
--------------------------------
 
Whatever your feelings are toward the death penalty, a fair accounting of how it is applied should be demanded.
 
copyright 1998-2008 Dudley Sharp
 
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail  sharpjfa@aol.com,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
 
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O'Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
 
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
 
Pro death penalty sites 

homicidesurvivors(dot)com/categories/Dudley%20Sharp%20-%20Justice%20Matters.aspx

www(dot)dpinfo.com
www(dot)cjlf.org/deathpenalty/DPinformation.htm
www(dot)clarkprosecutor.org/html/links/dplinks.htm
www(dot)coastda.com/archives.html
www(dot)lexingtonprosecutor.com/death_penalty_debate.htm
www(dot)prodeathpenalty.com
www(dot)yesdeathpenalty.com/deathpenalty_co
yesdeathpenalty.googlepages.com/home2   (Sweden)
www(dot)wesleylowe.com/cp.html

Permission for distribution of this document, in whole or in part,  is approved with proper attribution.

dudleysharp said...

The Death Penalty: More Protection for Innocents
Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters, contact info below

Often, the death penalty dialogue gravitates to the subject of innocents at risk of execution. Seldom is a more common problem reviewed. That is, how innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.
 
Living murderers, in prison, after release or escape or after our failures to incarcerate them, are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers.
 
Although this is, obviously a truism, it is surprising how often folks overlook the enhanced incapacitation benefits of the death penalty over incarceration.
 
No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.

Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed.
 
That is. logically, conclusive.
 
16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses,  find for death penalty deterrence.
 
A surprise? No.

Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
 
Some believe that all studies with contrary findings negate those 16 studies. They don’t. Studies which don’t find for deterrence don’t say no one is deterred, but that they couldn’t measure those deterred.
 
What prospect of a negative outcome doesn’t deter some? There isn’t one . . . although committed anti death penalty folk may say the death penalty is the only one.
 
However, the premier anti death penalty scholar accepts it as a given that the death penalty is a deterrent, but does not believe it to be a greater deterrent than a life sentence. Yet, the evidence is  compelling and un refuted  that death is feared more than life.

“This evidence greatly unsettles moral objections to the death penalty, because it suggests that a refusal to impose that penalty condemns numerous innocent people to death.” (1)
 
” . . . a serious commitment to the sanctity of human life may well compel, rather than forbid, (capital) punishment.” (1)

“Recent evidence suggests that capital punishment may have a significant deterrent effect, preventing as many as eighteen or more murders for each execution.” (1)
 
Some death penalty opponents argue against death penalty deterrence, stating that it’s a harsher penalty to be locked up without any possibility of getting out.
 
Reality paints a very different picture.
 
What percentage of capital murderers seek a plea bargain to a death sentence? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
 
What percentage of convicted capital murderers argue for execution in the penalty phase of their capital trial? Zero or close to it. They prefer long term imprisonment.
 
What percentage of death row inmates waive their appeals and speed up the execution process? Nearly zero. They prefer long term imprisonment.
 
This is not, even remotely, in dispute.
 
Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.
 
Furthermore, history tells us that “lifers” have many ways to get out: Pardon, commutation, escape, clerical error, change in the law, etc.

In choosing to end the death penalty, or in choosing not implement it, some have chosen to spare murderers at the cost of sacrificing more innocent lives.
 
——–
 
Furthermore, possibly we have sentenced 20-25 actually innocent people to death since 1973, or 0.3% of those so sentenced. Those have all been released upon post conviction review. The anti death penalty claims, that the numbers are significantly higher, are a fraud, easily discoverable by fact checking.

6 inmates have been released from death row because of DNA evidence.  An additional 9 were released from prison, because of DNA exclusion, who had previously been sentenced to death.

The innocents deception of death penalty opponents has been getting exposure for many years. Even the behemoth of anti death penalty newspapers — The New York Times — has recognized that deception.

“To be sure, 30 or 40 categorically innocent people have been released from death row . . . “. ‘ (2) This when death penalty opponents were claiming the release of 119 “innocents” from death row. Death penalty opponents never required actual innocence in order for cases to be added to their “exonerated” or “innocents” list. They simply invented their own definitions for exonerated and innocent and deceptively shoe horned large numbers of inmates into those definitions - something easily discovered with fact checking.

There is no proof of an innocent executed in the US, at least since 1900.

If we accept that the best predictor of future performance is past performance, we can reasonable conclude that the DNA cases will be excluded prior to trial, and that for the next 8000 death sentences, that we will experience a 99.8% accuracy rate in actual guilt convictions. This improved accuracy rate does not include the many additional safeguards that have been added to the system, over and above DNA testing.

Of all the government programs in the world, that put innocents at risk, is there one with a safer record and with greater protections than the US death penalty?
 
Unlikely.
 
———————–
Full report -  All Innocence Issues: The Death Penalty, upon request.

Full report - The Death Penalty as a Deterrent, upon request
 
(1) From the Executive Summary of
Is Capital Punishment Morally Required? The Relevance of Life-Life Tradeoffs, March 2005
Prof. Cass R. Sunstein,   Cass_Sunstein(AT)law.uchicago.edu
 Prof. Adrian Vermeule ,   avermeule(AT)law.harvard.edu
Full report           http://aei-brookings.org/admin/authorpdfs/page.php?id=1131
 
(2) “The Death of Innocents’: A Reasonable Doubt”,
New York Times Book Review, p 29, 1/23/05, Adam Liptak,
national legal correspondent for The NY Times
—————————–

Dudley Sharp, Justice Matters
e-mail  sharpjfa@aol.com,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas

Clayton said...

VIctor,
I'm not a fan of the death penalty either, but I think your objection is too quick. It seems you are arguing as follows:

(1) We know that using the DP will lead to the death of the innocent.
(2) If we know that instituting some policy will lead to the death of the innocent, it is impermissible.
(C) The DP is impermissible.

Construction projects are known to lead to the death of innocent workers. Modern warfare is known to cause the death of non-combatants. Raising the speed limits increases the number of deaths on the highways.

I'm sympathetic to the general line of argument, but it needs much by way of refinement because the crucial moral premise seems quite clearly false unless it is significantly modified.

Timothy David said...

Clayton, I think your formulation of Vic's argument is erroneous.. Vic didn't say we *know* the DP will lead to the death of the innocent. Read his post again.

Clayton said...

Timothy,

I don't see how that suggestion is helpful. If we didn't know we were going to execute innocent people, we wouldn't know to accept Victor's central premise. I'm sure Victor and I can agree that we know that innocent people will be killed if the DP is put to use. The question is the moral relevance of this fact we both know to be true. Surely you don't think Victor will have an easier time of it if he claims we don't know that the DP will lead to the death of innocent people. Sheesh.

Nacisse said...

Clayton,

construction, warfare, and going faster are all ways to achieve reasonable ends - id assume... but the argument claimed that the DP was not a way to achieve reasonable ends; or that other things were more effective. so the risky construction project and warfare (i guess) would be permissable still while the DP would not because the DP apparently doesnt work ...

if there were some safer way to build stuff (other than risky construction projects) and construction projects didnt really work anyway (nothing really got build) then construction projects would be impermissible.

Clayton said...

Nacisse,

I think that's going to make the argument much, much better. There will be some difficult issues remaining. Some will say that DP does serve some reasonable end (e.g., deterrence). Rather than get bogged down in statistics, however, I'd say that the problem with this rationale is that it treats persons as mere objects and so we can reject this argument on Kantian grounds before the numbers come in. It's at that point that the retributivist will say that DP serves the end of seeing to it that justice is served. Victor apparently doesn't buy that rationale, but it's hard to tell from what he's written why.

I take it that the retributivist will say that there are people who deserve death, the death penalty gives them what they deserve, and unlike torturing torturers and raping rapists it is not itself brutal or barbaric.

I suppose the most natural response is to concede that seeing to it that justice is served does give _some_ reason to use the DP but to insist that the reason is weak enough that it does not justify adopting the risks and costs associated with the use of the DP. That might not be the last word, but there are many, many more things to say on the issue.

Nacisse said...

If one believed that this was a universe where justice was always done at some point in the future irrespective of human attempts at justice then the risk would seem too great given the potential costs. but if the best hope for justice is human maybe there is more reason for vengeance or retribution?

dudleysharp said...

Kant on punishment and for the death penalty

http://newton.uor.edu/facultyfolder/jeremy_anderson/teach/120z_kant.html

In this excerpt, Kant first explains what crime is and the different sorts of crimes (paragraph 1), which is not very important for our purposes. He then presents his view that punishment is justified by the criminal's having committed a crime (par. 2). This is to be contrasted with other theories of punishment such as the Utilitarian theory, according to which punishment is justified by the good it brings to society. Kant rejects the Utilitarian theory for two reasons. First, he believes it treats criminals as mere means to others' good; Kant’s Categorical Imperative forbids this. Second, the Utilitarian theory could, possibly, justify punishing an innocent person because of the good it might bring to society. To Kant, this sort of injustice is absolutely intolerable. Having explained why we punish people Kant goes on to discuss how and how much to punish criminals (par. 3-8). Here he asserts that the hurt done to the criminal should equal the hurt the criminal did to others, both in amount and in kind (in class we are calling this the "Equal Punishment" version of the lex talionis). The rest of the piece mostly explains what he means by this, with particular emphasis on the need for the death penalty. In paragraphs 8 and 10 Kant considers some interesting exceptions to the rule that murderers must be executed.

Enigman said...

The death penalty is a defence of human rights. Humans who commit bad enough crimes no longer have the right to live as humans. Some crimes go beyond punishment, to banishment (and everyone is a part of humanity, as they live). I think that thinking otherwise devalues our humanity, but I may be wrong.

Still, the money spent on locking very nasty people up indefinitely could be spent on curing sick children or on extra police or houses or food or education et cetera. Indeed, the executed could repay their debt to society by having their organs taken off them to give life to sick people who would otherwise die. If that is not done (and if execution is regarded as punishment) that is a political issue not an ethical one.

Such options should be borne in mind when considering the possibility of accidentally executing the innocent. Life is hard period, and a painless banishment from our interconnected lives (alongside the life-giving organ removal) is not a barbaric punishment, but a perfectly humane border for us to choose to put around humanity (arguably :)

Shackleman said...

To dudleysharp:

While I appreciate your very thorough and thoughtful posts, there seems to be, for me, a trump card that beats them all. That is, if one places *oneself* in the position of being executed erroneously, then all of the justification and proper argumentation flies straight out of the window. At least that's my intuition.

Could you honestly say to yourself, if you were in that position "well, they got it wrong this time, but oh well, better to execute the guilty even though there's a risk of executing the innocent---i.e. *me*"? I'm rather certain that no one in their right mind can be that altruistic.

Sitting comfortably on your sofa, contemplating the statistics and determining that the risks of executing the innocent are so low that one can justify the death penalty is one thing. Sitting on death row, knowing you're innocent, and having to walk the green mile contemplating those same statistics is quite another.

==================================

To clayton: I think your argument breaks down because the implied issue here isn't "death" per se, but *intent*. Yes, innocent people die in construction accidents, but no one intends them to. It isn't death that's on trial here, it's intention.

dudleysharp said...

Shackleman, as stated:

No knowledgeable and honest party questions that the death penalty has the most extensive due process protections in US criminal law.

Therefore, actual innocents are more likely to be sentenced to life imprisonment and more likely to die in prison serving under that sentence, that it is that an actual innocent will be executed.

That is. logically, conclusive.

Innocents are more at risk without the death penalty.

Living murderers, in prison, after release or escape or after our failures to incarcerate them, are much more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers.

Although this is, obviously a truism, it is surprising how often folks overlook the enhanced incapacitation benefits of the death penalty over incarceration.

16 recent studies, inclusive of their defenses, find for death penalty deterrence.

A surprise? No.

Life is preferred over death. Death is feared more than life.

Some believe that all studies with contrary findings negate those 16 studies. They don’t. Studies which don’t find for deterrence don’t say no one is deterred, but that they couldn’t measure those deterred.

dudleysharp said...

BTW, there is no intent to execute innocent people. The intent is to execute guilty murderers.

Shackleman believes that the intent to kill is what's important.

I am not so sure. Intent to kill in a just war or in self defense follow that same line.

I think the issue, is government power and accuracy.

Of all the government programs in the world, that put innocents at risk, is there one with a safer record and with greater protections than the US death penalty?

Unlikely.

Shackleman said...

dudleysharp,

Thanks for the reply. To your first post---restating your points of argumentation didn't at all address my post to you. I am not quibbling with your very well reasoned and deftly outlined points of argument, nor am I quibbling over the statistics you present. They seem, by my layman's estimation, very sound.

But I'll say again---*even with* sound logic and reasoned explanation, when one puts oneself in the position of the condemned do any of your points really matter to that one? If not, can society justify the DP, knowing that mistakes are possible, and that once dead there is no going back? What's your honest intuition here? If *you* were the accused and condemned and you were innocent, would you still hold to your position?

In your second post, you state:

"BTW, there is no intent to execute innocent people. The intent is to execute guilty murderers.

Shackleman believes that the intent to kill is what's important.

I am not so sure. Intent to kill in a just war or in self defense follow that same line."


Firstly, of course there is no intent to execute the innocent. Let's try to give fair treatment to my post if you please.

Secondly, you bring up war and killing in self defense as if to suggest that if killing is justified in these situations, then killing is justified via death sentence for murderers.

Well, as a Christian, I *try* (but fail) to live by my understanding of what Christ teaches. And in these two cases, I can say what I understand to be Christ's teachings are at odds with my intuition. That is to say, I would answer "yes it's justified in situations of self defense", but I don't think Christ would answer that way. That leaves me then, the Christian, with a moral dilemma. And I'm not prepared to sweep that under the rug. Instead I'm prepared to admit to my failure here to have a consistent position, but it's not for lack of trying. It's because it's not a simple situation warranting simple responses. When investigating the details, it's not an apples-to-apples comparison between the killing via DP and killing in "just " (whatever that means) wars. For in the former, the intent to kill is made for punishment or retribution. In the latter for survival. These two intentions are hardly comparable in my opinion. So, is killing for retribution or punishment *ever* justified? My answer is "no". Is killing for my own survival ever justified? My answer is "probably yes", but I feel like I'm on unsure moral footing with that answer and look to Christ and the church for assistance with that one!

dudleysharp said...

Shackleman said "when one puts oneself in the position of the condemned do any of your points really matter to that one? If not, can society justify the DP, knowing that mistakes are possible, and that once dead there is no going back? What's your honest intuition here? If *you* were the accused and condemned and you were innocent, would you still hold to your position?"

Yes, because it is sound. Truly, those serving life without parole are more likely to be actually innocent and more likely to die while incarcerated than is an innocent likely to be executed, based solely upon the due process issue.

I brought up war and killing in self defense because there is intent to kill.

I was not saying that killing with the death penalty, just war or self defense are equal. I mentioned all, strictly, as an intent to kill issue. They are all justified in different ways.

The death penalty as a just sanction that also offers enhanced defense of the innocent.
Just war as response to evil aggression and protection of the innocent as ell as govenrments. Self defense, much the same. I cannot see Jesus' rejection of any of those. Was not Genesis 9:6 retributive?

You may find this of interest.

Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, 10/7/2000, from no. 2 at http://homicidesurvivors.com/2006/10/12/catholic-and-other-christian-references-support-for-the-death-penalty.aspx

"At no point, however, does Jesus deny that the State has authority to exact capital punishment."

"In his debates with the Pharisees, Jesus cites with approval the apparently harsh commandment, He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die (Mt 15:4; Mk 7:10, referring to Ex 21:17; cf. Lev 20:9). "

"When Pilate calls attention to his authority to crucify him, Jesus points out that Pilate's power comes to him from above-that is to say, from God (Jn 19:1 l).Jesus commends the good thief on the cross next to him, who has admitted that he and his fellow thief are receiving the due reward of their deeds (Lk 23:41). "

"Paul repeatedly refers to the connection between sin and death. He writes to the Romans with an apparent reference to the death penalty, that the magistrate who holds authority does not bear the sword in vain; for he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer (Rom 13:4). No passage in the New Testament disapproves of the death penalty."

"Turning to Christian tradition, we may note that the Fathers and Doctors of the Church are virtually unanimous in their support for capital punishment, even though some of them such as St. Ambrose exhort members of the clergy not to pronounce capital sentences or serve as executioners."

"The Roman Catechism, issued in 1566, three years after the end of the Council of Trent, taught that the power of life and death had been entrusted by God to civil authorities and that the use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to the fifth commandment. "

"Summarizing the verdict of Scripture and tradition, we can glean some settled points of doctrine. It is agreed that crime deserves punishment in this life and not only in the next. In addition, it is agreed that the State has authority to administer appropriate punishment to those judged guilty of crimes and that this punishment may, in serious cases, include the sentence of death."

"The Catholic magisterium does not, and never has, advocated unqualified abolition of the death penalty. I know of no official statement from popes or bishops, whether in the past or in the present, that denies the right of the State to execute offenders at least in certain extreme cases. The United States bishops, in their majority statement on capital punishment, conceded that Catholic teaching has accepted the principle that the state has the right to take the life of a person guilty of an extremely serious crime. Cardinal Bernardin, in his famous speech on the Consistent Ethic of Life here at Fordham in 1983, stated his concurrence with the classical position that the State has the right to inflict capital punishment."

"Pope John Paul II spoke for the whole Catholic tradition when he proclaimed, in Evangelium Vitae, that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral (EV 57). But he wisely included in that statement the word innocent. He has never said that every criminal has a right to live nor has he denied that the State has the right in some cases to execute the guilty. "

This recent, clear review by
Andrew Tallman
http://andrewtallmanshowarticles.blogspot.com/2008/04/why-i-support-capital-punishment-part-8.html

"If Jesus elsewhere opposes capital punishment, then He is not only contradicting the Father but even His own words. "

"Typically, (the anti death penalty) view is that the harsh and mean God the Father of the Old Testament established execution, but the loving and kind God the Son of the New Testament abolished it."

"I’m pretty sure such people don’t realize they’re denying the Trinity when they say this."

"The doctrine of the Trinity affirms the eternal unity of all three persons of the Godhead, but such a fundamental disagreement between the Son and the Father would rupture this unity. In fact, if Jesus had contradicted any of the Father’s principles, let alone such a well-established one, that very disagreement would have immediately disproved His claims to be the divine Son."

"This was exactly the heresy the Pharisees were hoping to trap Him into when they brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus. Even His enemies knew that He absolutely had to affirm capital punishment in order to prove Himself not a false prophet. "

"How truly strange, then, that those who claim to love Him assert that He did exactly what His enemies failed to trick Him into doing! Far from opposing capital punishment, Jesus actually advocated it, as His unity with the Father required."

"Matthew 5:17-18“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.”

"Just a few verses later, He extends the prohibition against murder to hatred and condemns haters to “the hell of fire” in verse 22, which is very strange talk for someone who opposes capital punishment. It’s very hard to dismiss these verses because they occur smack in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, which is so often mistakenly offered as the repudiation of Old Testament justice."

"Later, Jesus scolds the Pharisees and scribes for teaching leniency toward rebellious children by quoting the Old Testament, “For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death.’” (Matthew 15:4)"

"Subsequently, when the Romans come to arrest Jesus, Peter rather ineptly tries to defend Him by killing Malchus, but only succeeds in slicing off his ear. Jesus rebukes him with the warning, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” Far from advocating pacifism, as this passage is often misused to do, Jesus here teaches Peter that using the sword (for murder) will only get the sword used against him (for execution)."

"Shortly thereafter, Jesus tells Pilate in John 19:11, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above…” This authority to put Jesus to death would be odd if it didn’t entail the general power to execute criminals."

"Finally, when He is dying of crucifixion, Jesus accepts the repentance of the thief on the cross, who says to his reviling companion, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds….” (Luke 23:40-41)"

"Had Jesus disagreed with this statement, responding to it with the promise of eternal salvation was a rather obtuse way to express the correction."

"Beyond all this evidence that Jesus affirms the consistent Biblical principle of capital punishment, there is yet one more vital concept to grasp. Christians believe that Christ died on the cross to pay for the sins of us all."

"Although His sinlessness merited eternal life, He endured the death we deserved to extend that gift to us. As Prof. Michael Pakaluk so perfectly expressed the point, “If no crime deserves the death penalty, then it is hard to see why it was fitting that Christ be put to death for our sins….” If we didn’t deserve the death penalty ourselves, then why would Christ need to suffer it on our behalf in order to satisfy the justice of God? Denying the death penalty directly assaults the justice of the Father, Who required His own Son to pay precisely that price in our stead."

"What about the rest of the New Testament?"

"Since both Jesus’s teaching and His death affirm the capital punishment, it should come as no surprise that the rest of the New Testament reinforces this view."

"When confronting Governor Festus, Paul says in Acts 25:11, “If I am a wrongdoer, and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of these things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. He both affirms capital statutes and accepts them as binding on him if he has broken one."

"Later, in the New Testament’s most famous passage on the nature of government, Paul explains, “But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for [the government] does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4)"

"Finally, the same Bible which begins in Genesis 9:6 with the establishment of capital punishment, then carries the theme consistently throughout the text, and ends by reiterating it in Revelation 13:10, “If any one is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if any one kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.”

"Literally from beginning to end, the Bible teaches that capital punishment is authorized and required by God."

Shackleman said...

dudleysharp,

Thanks again for the reply. My tongue is in my cheek when I say this, but if you truly would hold to your position if *you* were on death row erroneously, then while you get high marks for being consistent, you must be out of your damn mind! :-)

Could you forgive me for not believing you? I don't. But I admit this may be my own bias.

But you are consistent--which gives you a leg up on me within this discussion at least!

Now, I appreciate your lengthy quotes, but it's hard to comment on them in this format with so much said there.

To try to keep the focus narrow, I would just say that I chose my words very carefully when I said I look to the church for guidance.

Firstly, I didn't capitalize "church", for I am not Catholic.

Secondly I look for *guidance* not absolute authority, lest I risk becoming a lemming to other fallible men and women. I am guided by my peers, by the church, by the clergy, by my conscience, by scripture, and maybe most importantly through prayer and a relationship with the Lord. While I believe that there is one objectively true and correct answer, given by God, I don't believe I can know it absolutely. I believe we are called to give our best effort in knowing it, but as we are sinners we *will* fall short in our understandings.

Lastly, while I'm no biblical scholar, I know that the Bible can be quote-mined in an effort to support just about any position. As I read the scripture, and try to take it in as a whole work (rather than in quote-mined pieces) I come away with an overriding message and teaching of love. If my understanding is true, I cannot imagine a scenario that it would be an act of love to intentionally kill another human being, especially for reasons of punishment or retribution.

I don't want to get into a Bible quoting war with anyone, because frankly I will lose that war, but in support of my position, I offer just these few:

"A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." --John 13:34

"But I say unto you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you. " --Luke 6:27-28

"Bless them that persecute you; bless, and curse not." --Romans 12:14

"Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men. Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath [of God]: for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord. But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." --Romans 12:17-21

dudleysharp said...

Shackleman,

Hey, you got me to laugh out loud!

And thank you for your thoughtful comments and quotes, all of which I very much appreciate.

At your liesure, take some time. No lemmings allowed.

(1)"The Death Penalty", Chapter XXVI, 187. The death penalty, from the book Iota Unum, by Romano Amerio, 
 
Thoughtful deconstruction of current Roman Catholic teaching on capital punishment by a faithful Catholic Vatican insider and expert theologian.
 
http://www.domid.blogspot.com/2007/05/amerio-on-capital-punishment.html
titled "Amerio on capital punishment "Friday, May 25, 2007 
 
(3)  "Capital Punishment: A Catholic Perspective", by Emmanuel Valenza (Br. Augustine) at
http://www.sspx.org/against_the_sound_bites/capital_punishment.htm

and this . . .

If you can find the whole essay, by all means:

Quaker biblical scholar Dr. Gervas A. Carey. A Professor of Bible and past President of George Fox College
"A Bible Study". a synopsis of his analysis:

" . . . the decree of Genesis 9:5-6 is equally enduring and cannot be separated from the other pledges and instructions of its immediate context, Genesis 8:20-9:17; . . . that is true unless specific Biblical authority can be cited for the deletion, of which there appears to be none. It seems strange that any opponents of capital punishment who professes to recognize the authority of the Bible either overlook or disregard the divine decree in this covenant with Noah; . . . capital punishment should be recognized . . . as the divinely instituted penalty for murder; The basis of this decree . . . is as enduring as God; . . . murder not only deprives a man of a portion of his earthly life . . . it is a further sin against him as a creature made in the image of God and against God Himself whose image the murderer does not respect." (p. 111-113) Carey agrees with Saints Augustine and Aquinas, that executions represent mercy to the wrongdoer: ". . . a secondary measure of the love of God may be said to appear. For capital punishment provides the murderer with incentive to repentance which the ordinary man does not have, that is a definite date on which he is to meet his God. It is as if God thus providentially granted him a special inducement to repentance out of consideration of the enormity of his crime . . . the law grants to the condemned an opportunity which he did not grant to his victim, the opportunity to prepare to meet his God. Even divine justice here may be said to be tempered with mercy." (p. 116). Essays on the Death Penalty, T. Robert Ingram, ed., St. Thomas Press, Houston, 1963, 1992. 

Shackleman said...

dudleysharp,

I'm thankful you took my ribbing in the spirit with which it was intended!

I'm thankful also for your careful and considerate suggestions for my future reading.

I hope to take the time at a future date to digest those offerings of yours.

In the meantime, I can tell you this--that I'm tormented by what little you did directly quote from the teachings of Saint Augustine, Aquinas and the like. They go against every intuition I have. While I can easily concede that *God* has the authority to administer capital punishment for capital crimes, how is it that *fallible* mankind can be placed in the position to do the same? It doesn't sit right with me. So I'm going to have to take some more time with the offerings you've listed.

On that note, I'm off to enjoy some downtime and plan to sign off for now.

Thanks for the stimulating discussion!

Clayton said...

To clayton: I think your argument breaks down because the implied issue here isn't "death" per se, but *intent*. Yes, innocent people die in construction accidents, but no one intends them to. It isn't death that's on trial here, it's intention.

Fwiw, it's not _my_ argument. I'm not a fan of the death penalty.

I think this is a difference between the two scenarios, but I'm wondering if it can really shoulder the burden. I don't think we can assume that it is impermissible to perform an action with the intention of killing someone (e.g., active euthanasia, shooting someone in Bernard Williams' Jim and the Indians example.) Presumably, the non-consequentialist defender of the DP will say that the intention to cause death is not evil because the motive is justice and the death is deserved. In any case of just punishment, won't there be an intention to cause a loss, suffering, hardship of some kind? Isn't there nevertheless just punishment?

Shackleman said...

clayton,

"I don't think we can assume that it is impermissible to perform an action with the intention of killing someone (e.g., active euthanasia, shooting someone in Bernard Williams' Jim and the Indians example.)"

I think you're right here and that's precisely why the discussion in the first place. There's obviously some gray area here that we're all (society) trying to hash out.

But, I would say that for me, looking through the lens of my Christian understanding, I still fail to imagine how it could ever be an act of love to intentionally kill someone (with the exception maybe of euthanasia for the grievously and terminally ill). And if my understanding is true that the overarching principle expected of me by God is to love first and foremost, I still wonder for myself if there is *ever* a time that intentionally killing a fellow child of God would be just. And yes, that means even in the most extreme of cases in regards to the most evil and vile persons in history. Why? I'll address that next.

Presumably, the non-consequentialist defender of the DP will say that the intention to cause death is not evil because the motive is justice and the death is deserved.

If the intention to cause death is not evil, what would you call it? Good? Something else? (Honest questions).

Who decides that "death is deserved"? Fallible and sinful humankind?! I might agree that death is deserved, but I struggle to assign ownership of that decision to fallen human beings. That judgment seems more appropriately made by God.

Now, for the unbeliever the answer is "yes"--that society, or the majority, or the elite, or the powerful are *your_only_options*, without God, to decide when death is *deserved*. But for believers, we have some moral ambiguity here---at least I do.

"In any case of just punishment, won't there be an intention to cause a loss, suffering, hardship of some kind? Isn't there nevertheless just punishment?"

Yes. Suffering, loss, hardship etcetera frankly suck from the perspective of the punished. But surely you'd agree that of all punishments, death is the most severe? The most absolute? The most *permanent*? I think Dr. Reppert began this post appropriately by keying on the fact that *there's_ no_turning_back* once you're dead. The finality (at least on earth) of this punishment vaults the issue of the DP into a whole different classification in my opinion, compared with "loss, or suffering" and what not. Wouldn't you agree? Wouldn't any reasonable person agree?

Surely *all* issues connected with the intentional killing of another human should require the most vigorous, careful, and measured thought. But a solution may not be one size fits all and if so, comparing euthenasia with the DP, as you're doing, may not necessarily be appropriate. Maybe there's a categorical difference between these topics.

It might be a little off topic (then again maybe not), but I am perplexed by people and/or institutions who hold such differing opinions of killing based on the form and method. Examples:

Some of my liberal friends support Abortion, but are against capital punishment. Some of my conservative friends support capital punishment but are against abortion. Some churches support the DP but are against euthanasia.

On the surface, I wonder why and how people can come down on one side or the other of these issues in such contradictory fashion. Maybe this is evidence that the categories really are separate and for purposes of this discussion are better left to be handled individually, rather than drawing parallels between them all the way you're suggesting.

Anonymous said...

The reason it is cheaper to not execute is the cost of the damn lawyers.

Solution...death row inmates should be represented by law students at no cost to the tax payers.

drjco said...

The reason it is cheaper to not execute is the cost of the damn lawyers.

Solution...death row inmates should be represented by law students at no cost to the tax payers.

10:39 PM

Anonymous said...

Are u guys fuckin stupid if a guy kills one of oyur fmaily members odnt you want them dead fuck man if an ax murderer gets out of jail i hope he comes and kills ur fuckin kids some day cuz chances are once a criminal always a criminal so when he gets out i hope u or ur kids are fuckin dead

Anonymous said...

Yeha you go kid fuckin tell those people that tehre kids are gunna gte killed one of these days cuz of them saying dont kill guilty criminals who kill people i hope they do get their kids killed

Anonymous said...

Friggen eh guys FRIGGEN EH!!!!