Many people consider this topic difficult, and that is understandable since taking human life should not be taken lightly. However, capital punishment is not complicated IF you have a clear moral standard against which to make the key judgments. This article will attempt to put forth the most reasonable view of capital punishment from a non-disciple perspective.
Let me start by saying that this issue is an issue of “the state”. Meaning, as human beings of the world organize themselves, they form nation-states, which are typically the highest level of organization with many lower levels underneath it. These nation states are run by people.
From a Kingdom of God perspective, capital punishment is not utilized. We who follow the Way do not use killing others as punishment for wrongs done as the solution to our community relationship problems. However, that is not to say that sometimes killing another human being is always unjust. We who represent the Kingdom of God do not take ultimate justice in our hands in regard to earthly punishment, for we are committed to the Way of forgiveness. Unremorseful people are banished from the community and shunned until genuine remorse is shown and demonstrated. Disciples have a different Standard for living and for what is right and wrong and that standard and view is not held by non-disciples.
This does not mean that we don’t have a valuable view on nation-state’s handling of grave moral crimes like murder.
Nation-States should have punishment laws, meaning, they should have laws that handle how to punish a person who willfully does wrong. Most Nation-States do have such laws, but many are unjust, ineffective or enforcement is unfair.
Any intentional killing of a human being that is willful and premeditated with malice aforethought; and, any intentional murder with malice aforethought, but is not premeditated or planned; should warrant capital punishment. In other words, by wrongfully taking another person’s life with the previously mentioned motivations and state of mind, that person has forfeited their physical life and it could be just to kill them as punishment.
(This would include both first and second degree murder as designated by the U.S. legal system – see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_(United_States_law)
“Premeditated” means they planned on murdering someone.
We will define “murder” as the wrongful, premeditated killing of another person.
“Wrongfully” means that they killed a person who:
For example, if a man who was a dad had a daughter who was wrongfully killed by a man and that dad takes revenge on that man by killing him because the State could not or was not willing to punish the man, that dad should not be subject to capital punishment.
Furthermore, for crimes less than murder, there should be an eye-for-an-eye policy. So, for example, if one man hated his neighbor for no good reason, and premeditatively cut off that neighbor’s legs, he should be subject to having his legs cut off or punishments up to that depending upon the victim’s wishes.
Once a person is judged as guilty for murder or intentional less-than-murder crimes where bodily injury was perpetrated, they are put in prison and the following happens.
“Victims” are those people who are directly affected by the loss of the person who was murdered, typically blood or legal relatives or others who had direct daily care relationships with the victim.
The difficulty, of course, is determining genuine remorse. For some people who commit murder, they are unapologetically unremorseful and so their situation is straightforward. These should receive their capital punishment as soon as possible, no more than one months after the judgment of their guilt. Whatever assets or money the guilty party had should be used to pay for the expenses associated with their legal and incarceration processing and the rest should go to the victim’s beneficiaries.
For some, however, remorse would be feigned in order to get away with murder. For those who claimed to be remorseful, they would have six months to prove their remorse.
Proving remorse would entail things like:
Deciding if the guilty person is genuinely remorseful would involve a vote of a panel of people after at most six months. The moment the guilty person who is not genuinely remorseful ‘slips up’ and demonstrates he is playing the system, he/she loses their remaining six month evaluation and capital punishment is instituted.
The judgment panel would consist of three objective people assigned by the legal/prison system evaluating the perpetrator (counselor type people); three people representing the victims; and one other assigned by the prison warden who represents the people in the prison system who saw or interacted with the condemned person the most regularly. For the remorse evaluation to be judged genuine, four people on the seven person panel must vote genuine and the other three must not have any hard evidence or proof indicating in-genuine remorse.
If a murderer is judged genuinely remorseful and the victims agree to not hold the guilty party accountable for the murder, the person who committed murder is put on probation for two years upon release. Other reasonable requests by the victims should also be honored, like not living near certain people or interacting with certain people, etc.
If the released former murderer ever wrongfully and significantly harms another human being, they are immediately incarcerated and capital punishment is carried out with haste with no remorse evaluation.
If it is ever discovered that the released former murderer was not genuinely remorseful, then they should be capture and have capital punishment applied.
From an unjust cost perspective, if there is incontrovertible evidence (videos, multiple eyewitnesses, etc.) that a person committed first of second degree murder, then that person gets a minimal legal defense which cost should not exceed something like several thousand dollars.
This system, if carried out consistently and fairly, would be the most just system possible in the world regarding dealing with the wrongful taking of another person’s life.
Unfortunately, capital punishment is generally opposed for three primary reasons.
First, no empathy or compassion on the victim’s loved ones. One must completely ignore the injustice, hurt, pain and suffering of the victims in order to oppose capital punishment. I suspect that for the majority of people who oppose capital punishment – if someone THEY loved was killed in cold blooded murder – would change their position even after the initial emotions passed.
Second, a deep, selfish (perhaps guilt driven) fear that says, “I never want to be subject to capital punishment, so I better fight against it to make sure I never am”.
Third, people no longer believe in any life after death, and in like manner, don't believe in any justice or mercy after death. If they were consistent with their beliefs, Mother Teresa and Adolf Hitler would have the same after-death experience. Therefore, they are left with a belief that 'this life is all there is', which makes their view of 'taking someone's life' all the more drastic and seemingly unjust in their erroneous world view.
All three reasons are wrong reasons to be against capital punishment.
Here are some of the most popular arguments against capital punishment or the death penalty:
Comment: False. The death penalty could be abused to single out certain people, but from a pure principle standpoint, if someone takes another person’s life, it doesn’t matter what race they are…they did what was wrong and they should pay the price if the victims want them too. A person’s race is irrelevant if they choose to commit first or second degree murder.
Comment: False. Perhaps poor people kill other people more frequently, but it is silly to argue that the death penalty picks on poor people. Again, from a pure principle standpoint, if someone takes another person’s life, it doesn’t matter how much money they had or didn’t have… they did what was wrong and they should pay the price if the victims want them too. The amount of money a person has is irrelevant if they choose to commit first or second degree murder.
Comment: False. Very rarely an innocent person is condemned to die, and while that is a horrible travesty of justice, making mistakes is no reason to not implement justice on those who deserve it. That is like arguing that because some vaccinations end up killing people, all vaccinations ought to be eliminated. Or, because some people are wrongly ticketed for traffic violations, all enforcement efforts should cease. Obviously the people involved in determining guilt of a capital crime ought to be careful, thorough and diligent in determining the facts and thus seek to minimize errors.
Comment: Probably true, but capital punishment’s primary purpose should not be deterrence, but justice for the victims and safety for ‘society at large’.
Comment: Tell that to the murdered victim's loved ones.
Comment: Dead people don’t have the potential to change nor to rejoin society because all their potential was taken away from them by the murderer. This argument should work both ways. What if the murdered person was to be the next Picasso or the person who would have discovered the cure for cancer?
Comment: If you read those arguments carefully, the only reason the death penalty is so expensive is unnecessary or unreasonably excessive legal fees. Those legal fees could be drastically reduced in cases of clear guilt. The primary reason that the legal fees are so high in potential capital punishment cases is because there is a general bias against capital punishment so people fight very hard against it and the legal people allow the abuse of the system.
Furthermore, those that say capital punishment is more expensive than life in prison don’t calculate the cost of building the prisons, just typically prison maintenance.
A good example to show the wrongness of the cost argument is the James Holmes murders in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in 2012. That man, James Holmes, walked into a movie theatre and killed 12 people and seriously injured 70 others. There was no doubt about the man’s guilt in perpetrating that crime, and yet millions of dollars in legal fees were spent ‘giving him a fair trial’. That is as insane as the man’s plea. So, the taxpayers of CO will now support that man for the rest of his life, so on top of the millions paid to ‘try’ an obviously guilty man, they will pay millions more to feed, clothe and shelter him. That man should have been executed within weeks after his guilt was determined and if that happened, many millions of dollars – by some estimates, upwards of $10 million - would have been saved. In fact, the Jame’s Holmes incident should be the ‘poster child’ of a U.S. legal system gone insane and sadly, it is indicative of things to come.
Other arguments against capital punishment are offered like “uncivilized”, “brutality”, “humanness” and the like, but those argument all ignore the moral wrongness of murder and its impact on the victims and victim’s loved ones…they are emotional ‘arguments’ that simply state different versions of ‘I don’t like capital punishment and I wish it did not exist’.
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